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Four senior student-athletes from Pusch Ridge Christian Academy recently signed letters of intent in early February to continue their athletic and academic futures at several colleges west of the Mississippi River. 

Senior Evan Lovett signed to North Dakota’s Minot State for football, Senior Geneva Elliott committed to Texas’ Abilene Christain Academy for volleyball, Senior Hayden Palmer will be playing baseball for Pima Community College and Senior Ellie Robinson committed to the University of New Mexico to play soccer. 

Robinson said she transferred to PRCA from Catalina Foothills High School her senior year to make sure she could continue playing soccer during the pandemic. While the Arizona Interscholastic Association recently reversed course on canceling the winter season and have allowed winter sports to proceed, Robinson said she does not regret changing schools. 

“I decided to transfer to Pusch Ridge this past year just to have an opportunity to get to play and be in school every day,” Robinson said. “It’s been an adventure but I’m excited to have the opportunity to continue with soccer.”

The sport has been a part of Robinson’s life since childhood—her father coached her at a very young age, which fostered a genuine love for the game, she said.

“I pretty much started when I was 5 and haven’t stopped playing since,” Robinson said. “It was the first sport my parents put me in. My dad coached me for the first four years and I stuck with it. I’ve loved it ever since.”

At the University of New Mexico, Robinson said she plans to continue playing center forward for the Lobos while studying business management. She hopes to work in athletics after graduating college, she said. 

Palmer said he made the decision to play baseball for the Pima Community College Aztecs because it allowed him to continue with the sport while staying close to home, he said. 

“After talking with my coach, it was a pretty easy decision for me to choose to play there,” Palmer said. “It fits my needs and I want to continue playing after high school.”

The senior said it’s been difficult to find the motivation to practice individually as a student athlete during the pandemic, but daily sessions in the weight room and setting goals have kept him on point. The high school senior said he spends about eight to 10 hours a week focusing on how to become a better ballplayer. 

“Losing lack of motivation to play has been the hardest part this past year,” Palmer said. “But the biggest thing for me and my teammates is finding that motivation to get better and being prepared so we can take it to the next level.”

Pusch Ridge Christian Academy’s athletic director Lonnie Tvrdy said he is proud to see what his school’s athletes have been able to accomplish during this past year and excited about what the future holds for them.

“We’re proud of all the work they have put in to accomplish their goals from being a good student to working hard at their sports,” Tverdy said. “But we’re more excited about what God is going to do with these abilities as they move on to college and ultimately through their lives.”

Tverdy said his school’s decision to continue with in-person learning and their fall athletic season as many public schools canceled their fall seasons due to AIA recommendations and switched to remote learning was risky but worth it. 

“It was a risk that our school took to open up to in-person because everybody didn’t know. It was a risk to go ahead and play sports but there is a lot of risk in life,” Tverdy said. “For us to be able to do it, I’m thrilled. But, I feel for other families in the City of Tucson and in the state that couldn’t [participate] because they had to make their decisions based on what was going on in their areas.”

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