Three Odessa College student-athletes will continue their careers with Mountian West Conference programs after signing national letters of intent Tuesday.
Golfer Bryce Waters signed with the University of Wyoming, while baseball players Mason McLenna and Harry Fullerton inked with the University of New Mexico during a ceremony at Odessa College Sports Center's Wrangler Room.
Waters, a sophomore from Midland Christian, earned NJCAA All-American honors last spring in helping the Wranglers to a fourth-place finish at the NJCAA Division I Men's Golf Championship.
"We're excited for Bryce to continue his academic and golf career," Odessa College golf coach Paul Chavez. "Bryce has done a great job for us, a returning All-American, and we look forward to a great spring season."
Waters said Wyoming made it an easy decision when it came time to choose a four-year school.
"Just a great group of guys," Waters said. "They were so committed to me, even before I committed to going there. They really wanted me and made me feel like a part of their family.
"It's a great program, a great opportunity and even greater people. It was really the perfect fit for me."
While Waters has spent most of his career playing in West Texas, the Mountain West Conference offers a wide variety of courses with members in Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Nevada, California and Hawaii.
"It'll be different, but as a golfer you've got to adapt," he said. "The elevation change, mainly. The ball flies a little farther in thin air. Just a few changes, but it shouldn't be a problem."
Fullerton and McLenna helped Odessa College to a 34-25 record last spring and a berth in the NJCAA Region V Tournament.
"Congratulations to both of these guys," Wranglers baseball coach Kurtis Lay said. "It's obviously an honor for these guys, but it's also an honor for Odessa College and our program and our institution.
"A lot of hands come into play in order for these guys to continue to represent our college. I'm very proud of them."
McLenna batted .320 (58 for 181) with 13 doubles, four triples, eight home runs and 59 RBIs. He scored 44 runs with 13 stolen bases in 15 attempts. McLenna had an .887 fielding percentage with 22 putouts, 49 assists and nine errors in 80 total chances. He said earning a shot with a Division I program was a significant achievement.
"That was the goal from Day One coming in here, just trying to move on to the next level, get there and be a part of something bigger," McLenna said.
"I picked UNM because of the coaching staff. I heard good things about them and had a coach coached by them, so I figured it was a good choice overall for me. It was a good fit."
Fullerton batted .357 (75 for 210) with 16 doubles, three triples, five home runs and 64 RBIs. He scored 72 runs in 60 games and stole 23 bases in 29 attempts. Fullerton had an .875 fielding percentage with 70 putouts, 112 assists and 26 errors in 208 total chances. He echoed McLenna's sentiment that New Mexico was a good fit.
"I was always looking to go play DI baseball," he said. "New Mexico gave me a really good opportunity to do that. They really wanted me and I really wanted to go there. It just felt like a really good fit."
Both Fullerton and McLenna said playing at the junior-college level provided benefits that helped them get noticed by Division I programs.
"Obviously, the playing time was huge for my development," said McLenna, a sophomore from Austin. "That was kind of the big reason why I came here. Other than that, it was pretty much them teaching me how to work hard and get after it and play baseball."
For Fullerton, a sophomore from Sydney, Australia, there was the additional matter of adapting to life and baseball in another country.
"It's different, but I feel very comfortable doing it," Fullerton said. "Obviously, the amount of playing time I got last year was incredible, just because we don't play a lot of games in Australia during the season. We played three times as many games as I usually would. That was a massive benefit.
"Also, just the mental side. It was a huge grind in junior college, constantly out in the field but also with the schoolwork. It's a different environment to be around. This has really helped me throughout life."
ARTICLE BY SAM WALLER: ODESSA AMERICAN