Arguably, there’s nothing more exciting for a high school athlete than being a top recruit and announcing a commitment to play at the next level.
National Signing Day was special for two South Pasadena High seniors who have signed letters of intent to compete in college.
Track standouts, Tianhao Wei, headed to Columbia, and Gianna Beasley, taking her talents to U.C. Berkeley, inked their signatures on the key documents during a noontime ceremony Wednesday, February 5, on the school’s Tiger Patio.
Wei, who holds the SPHS record in the triple jump with a leap of 48 feet and a quarter of an inch, said it was a difficult decision between Columbia, Princeton and the University of Pennsylvania. “I chose Columbia because I was super happy with what they had in terms of resources, especially their coach, who has a bunch of kids who are performing really well,” said Wei, also noting that it was hard to pass up an institution known for its world-class academics. “It’s just a cherry on top that I get to join such a great track program.”
Among his goals is to someday qualify for the NCAA Track Championships and, even further, land a spot on the 2024 Summer Olympic team. For those just launching early high school athletic ambitions, Wei simply says, “Work hard.” That’s how he reached the top.
Beasley who has impressed the University of California at Berkeley coaches with her times for the 400 and 800 meters, has also won the praise of Tiger coaches watching her development over the years.
“I’m really excited,” said Beasley, who hopes to become a forensic psychologist. “When I took my official visit, it was just perfect. Everything lined up. The team atmosphere was really great. The coaches were nice and really fun, so I’m excited about the next four years.”
Along with plenty of excitement might come some good-natured ribbing as her father attended rival Stanford University. “So, it will be fun to have some rivalry in the house.”
Her advice to young hopefuls in the sport? “Whether you’re going through a tough practice or about to compete, put in the work, because in the end it will all be worth it,” she said.
The first Wednesday in February has become a national holiday, of sorts, for fans as well as coaches who like the idea of watching top athletes move on and excel from the high school ranks and set a new path for college as part of National Signing Day.
Mike Parkinson, who coaches distance runners on the SPHS track team and serves as the school’s cross country coach fall, along with Tiger Track Coach C.B. Richards, were among those proudly looking on at Wednesday’s signings.
“It feels great,” said Richards, whose track teams are among the best in the area year-after-year. “They’ve put in a lot of hard work and it’s great to see the fruition of it as they matriculate over to the university level and continuing to see that Tiger spirit keep going. We’re proud coaches for these boys and girls.”
South Pasadena High varsity boys’ track team has won the Rio Hondo League championship since 2013 while the girls’ unit has claimed the title going back 2010.
Little should change this spring when Wei and Beasley will be counted on to help keep the string alive.
“Sixteen years for the varsity combined,” pointed out Richards. “So, that’s pretty good. Hopefully we can keep it going.”
Odds are good with Wei and Beasley in the chase.