A pair of Sedona Red Rock High School track and field athletes made final commitments to continue with athletics at the collegiate level on Tuesday, May 16.
Justin Aleman and Jake Christensen signed a National Letter of Intent to compete at Ottawa University, joining the Spirit’s first-ever class at its new campus in Surprise.
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“They’re going to fit what we’re doing here,” said Wade Watkins, Spirit track and field coach. “They’re good kids, Sedona Red Rock has a good program. These are two kids who will help us out with the program.”
Both Aleman and Christensen have been throwers for the Scorpions during the last two seasons, but still found success, qualifying for the 2017 Arizona Interscholastic Association Track and Field State Championships. Christensen went in discus and Aleman in shot put. Aleman also qualified for the 2016 state meet in the same event.
“Coach G [Kali Gajewski] is an awesome coach,” Christensen said. “She has tons of knowledge ... if I had any other coach, there’s no way I’d be going to college [for throwing].”
Aleman, who is entering undeclared, is going to be a first-generation college student. His family was what pushed him most to aspire to attend college, and the scholarship offered by the NAIA institution provided him a guaranteed path.
“The opportunity to have scholarship for sports is a great thing to have,” Aleman said. “My family is proud of me and I’m glad to make them happy.”
The close distance to Sedona allows Christensen to see his parents regularly, but at the same time enjoy the new environment that the Phoenix metro area provides.
“Going to Phoenix from a small school is cool,” Christensen said. “It’s a new program, being able to start a legacy, and just being able to play college sports is great.”
Christensen plans to study business management with some kind of emphasis, and already intends to get his masters in business administration. Christensen, a four-year football player for Red Rock as well, has the scholarship for track and field, but said he will play football for at least one year in order to get money to pursue his graduate degree.
Aleman aspires to use track and field as a way to get into shape with hopes of joining the football team as well.
The Surprise campus is the newest; five others are spread around the country and its original is in Ottawa, Kan. It provides them the perfect situation to get a scholarship, become part of the first wave of athletes and help get its programs off the ground.
Gajewski was happy for them to have the opportunity, especially with throwing being such a technical sport and their comparative inexperience with other college-bound throwers.
“It’s very technical, to have the success as he [Christensen] did is impressive in itself,” Gajewski said. “Same goes for Justin. I expect them to get exponentially better in college.”
In terms of goals, Aleman said he hopes to find something to study that can help him secure a well-paying job after graduation, and Christensen wants to leave with as little debt as possible.
Aleman was considering Yavapai, Mesa Community and Glendale community colleges. Christensen was looking at Glendale Community and Phoenix colleges as well as Iowa Wesleyan University.