Four Lion seniors sign in Olympic sports

By J.D. Elliott
Courtesy The Journal

CENTRAL — Daniel High School girls’ track and field head coach Cosandar Griffin loves the potential of her star athlete Laurie Barton, who signed with Virginia Tech on Wednesday.


Rex Brown/Courtesy The Journal
From left, Daniel High School’s Ben Smith, Kate Hill, Cade Stewart, Denise Arredondo, Laurie Barton and Carter Groomes pose after signing to continue their athletic careers in college last Wednesday.

“The sky’s the limit for her,” Griffin said. “I feel like she will do well at Virginia Tech, which is a great track school.

“I see them winning a championship with her and I see her turning pro and going on to the Olympics.”

It’s certainly high praise for the senior, but Barton’s high school accolades speak for themselves — state championships in the 400-meter and 800-meter dash as a junior, and she may have won more titles if it weren’t for conflicting event times during the championship meet.

Virginia Tech was a perfect fit for Barton.

“I really like the coaches, and the campus is beautiful — it’s great school,” Barton said.

In addition to Barton, five other Daniel athletes signed national letters of intent to further their athletic careers. Denise Arredondo (soccer) and Ben Smith (tennis) signed with nearby Southern Wesleyan, and Kate Hill (golf) inked with Anderson, while football stars Cade Stewart and Carter Groomes signed with Clemson.

While Barton may have signed with the Hokies on Wednesday, her focus is her final season of track at Daniel — which could prove to be pretty special.

“Probably, by the end of this year she will have that state 800-meter record,” Griffin said. “That’s what she wants to break. She works extremely hard at her craft — she’s always working.”

Arredondo felt a comfort level upon stepping foot on Southern Wesleyan’s campus, where her older brother Abraham is a midfielder on the men’s soccer team.

“It’s like a hometown kind of college,” Arredondo said. “They were extremely welcoming to me. I have a lot of people there supporting me, and my brother also goes to school there and I’m looking forward to that.”

The Southern Wesleyan coaching staff likes Arredondo’s versatility.

“They see me as an outfield player and a goalkeeper,” Arredondo said.

Smith will join his fellow Lion at SWU. Unlike most players, he didn’t begin playing tennis until the end of his seventh-grade year. While he has always dreamed of playing a college sport, he wasn’t sure which sport that would be until a fateful conversation with one of his coaches.

“The thing that stood out the most to me is that my coach told me it was a natural fit,” Smith said. “So I thought, ‘why not keep practicing?’”

With his final season with the Lions looming, Smith still has plenty he wants to accomplish on the high school level.

“This year, me and my team are trying to win the state championship, and (then I’ll) get ready for college next year,” Smith said.

Hill recalls the moment she knew she would play golf at Anderson.

“I had a really bad golf tournament one time, and they saw all of it,” Hill said. “I kept my head held high, and recovered well, and they said they still wanted me and knew I was going to be a pivotal player.”

The sense of loyalty from Anderson was felt throughout the recruiting process, and Hill was attracted to the idea of competing for national championships.

“They can go to the national championship in Division II, and I wanted a chance to win,” Hill said. “The team is fantastic and is already like a family to me. The chance to succeed drew me in.”