Robert Perea, The Fernley Reporter
The day before they graduated, eight members of the Fernley High School graduating Class of 2023 were honored at a ceremony to celebrate their commitments to play college athletics.
The ceremony was held June 1 in the Fernley High School Career Center. The group includes two who will be going to play football and one each playing baseball, wrestling, softball, track and field, cross country and soccer.
Jake Cumming, University of Nevada baseball
Cumming signed last fall to play baseball for the University of Nevada but was able to celebrate his signing with his classmates at the June 1 ceremony.
“It’s been a dream since I was really young,” he said. “My goal was always having a scholarship to play baseball in college and now that it’s coming up, it’s feeling more and more real every day.”
Cumming is a pitcher, but he said he’s still very raw and is looking forward to working with coaches who specialize in developing talent.
“I still haven’t hit my full growth spurt, and I’m just finally starting to put on weight,” he said. “I haven’t gotten proper coaching mechanic-wise and all that. I’ve got a lot of potential.”
Cumming said he expects to get some innings as a freshman, and he said the Nevada coaches plan to initially use him as a reliever.
Cumming plans to study kinesiology and business. His goal is a professional baseball career, but whenever he finishes playing baseball, he plans to open a training facility with a gym, a pitching mound and batting cages.
Brandon McCullar, Concordia University wrestling
McCullar will be attending Concordia University in Mequon, Wisc. The Falcons compete in the NCAA Division III and last season had their best-ever finish at the Collegiate Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin Championships.
A three-sport athlete at Fernley, McCullar played football and baseball in addition to wrestling. He said he’s always dreamed of playing in college.
“I played three sports, and it was just whichever one I got an offer for, and whichever I could do,” he said.
McCullar said he began receiving interest from college coaches during his junior year of wrestling. One day he was scrolling through text messages he hadn’t read yet and realized there was one from a Concordia coach.
“I just started talking to the coach, and he was really interested, calling me every week, and it seemed like he really wanted me to be there,” McCullar said. After visiting the campus, McCullar was sold.
“I went to the school, felt at home and decided that’s where I wanted to be,” he said. “It felt natural, like I was supposed to be there.”
McCullar plans to major in secondary education with the goal of continuing the family tradition of teaching and coaching at Fernley High school.
Gabe Tollestrup, Eastern New Mexico University football
Tollestrup will be heading to Portales, NM to play quarterback for Eastern New Mexico University. The Greyhounds play in the NCAA Division II Lone Star Conference.
The Greyhounds also run the flexbone offense, which Tollestrup ran expertly as the starting quarterback for the Vaqueros last season. Tollestrup said one day during advisory period he and coach Chris Ward were researching schools that run the triple option offense. They sent an email message to the Eastern New Mexico staff, and they got a reply within 30 minutes.
ENMU coach Kelley Lee then called Tollestrup, and the recruitment started in earnest.
“He called me, and I was driving, and I had to pull over,” Tollestrup said. “It was amazing.”
Tollestrup played baseball and football at Fernley, and said he was hoping to be able to play one of them in college. He began playing football at 8 years old but said his first season wasn’t very good and he didn’t like it.
“Then I came back and found a new love for the game,” he said. “I’m very appreciative to play football.”
Tollestrup started just one season at quarterback for Fernley after breaking his wrist in a preseason scrimmage his junior year, but he spent the year studying film, and when his chance came to play, he looked much more experienced than a single-season starter. Tollestrup said the ENMU coaches are excited with the knowledge and experience he has in the flexbone.
“A lot of it was a lot of time taken watching film,” he said. “You gotta find who to run the ball to, and that makes it a lot easier when you’re actually on the field.”
Tollestrup plans to major in law, with the goal of becoming a police officer.
Mackenzie Depaoli, Carroll College softball
Depaoli also signed last fall to play softball for Carroll College in Helena, Mt. The Fighting Saints play in the NAIA Cascade Collegiate Conference.
“It’s really hitting hard that I’m leaving home, but I feel good,” Depaoli said.
She is acquainted with some of her future teammates and is looking forward to getting to spend time with them.
Depaoli pitched and played first base for the Vaqueros but was recruited to be a pitcher at Carroll. The top pitcher for the Fighting Saints this season graduated, so Depaoli said there is an opportunity for her to compete for innings right away, and she’s looking forward to working with college coaches.
‘My coach is really good at mental therapy with the whole team, and so I think it will be good,” she said.
Depaoli plans to study health science and she wants to become a physician assistant.
Hayden McGinnis, George Fox University track and field
McGinnis moved to Fernley a week before school started last fall, from a small northwest Oregon town called Clatskanie. Now he’s heading back close to home to compete in track and field for George Fox University, in Newberg, Ore. The Bruins compete in the NCAA Division III Northwest Conference.
Although he finished second in the 3A State meet last month in the discus, McGinnis still considers himself somewhat of a novice thrower. He never threw a shot put or discus until his junior year at Clatskanie, where he also finished second at state. But indicative of the room he still has to grow, his throw at state beat his qualifying throw by seven feet.
“I’ve seen more progression with only limited practice, so I’m excited to see how that develops,” he said. “I’m already on my summer workout program and in the gym almost every single day, and in college I’ll be on a meal plan and have higher level coaching. I’ll see a lot more improvements up there, I can already tell.”
McGinnis said he only started throwing shot put and discus after other events didn’t work out.
“I was just like, ‘I’m not good at anything else, I may as well just try it out.’ and it worked out for me,” he said.
McGinnis played on the Vaqueros’ basketball team this winter and he’s previously tried football and cross country. He always wanted to be a college athlete, but he didn’t think it was in the cards for him until he started throwing shot put and discus.
“I just didn’t’ see enough success and I kind of threw it out the window until I started throwing, and that’s when the opportunity kind of arose,” he said. “Even until this year I was thinking I wouldn’t be a college athlete and I started progressing more and reached out to colleges and realized actually I have a lot of potential.”
McGinnis said his dream is to go to the University of Oregon or Oregon State University, but he doesn’t want to pay out of state tuition, so his hope is to develop his skills and possibly transfer to one of the bigger schools.
And since college track includes events that high school doesn’t, he plans on throwing the hammer and javelin as well.
“I’ll try the hammer and see how that goes, and I don’t have experience with jav but actually I’m more natural with it,” he said. “I’ve seen more progression with it with only limited practice.”
Academically, McGinnis said the decision of a major is a toss-up between computer science and computer engineering. He’s interested in coding, and possibly software development.
Toby Gertson, Feather River College football
After not playing much as a junior, Gertson’s breakout senior season on the offensive line has earned him the chance to play at Feather River College in Quincy, Calif.
“I didn’t think it was going to be a thing for me at all, and then senior year in the weight room and I got taller and faster and just better overall,” Gertson said. “And that’s when it clicked, this could actually work.”
Gertson said Feather River reached out to coach Chris Ward about him. It was the only school that offered him a spot, and now he’s looking to go there and make an impact playing guard on the offensive line.
“it’s pretty exciting, doing something besides actually working, doing something many people can’t do,” Gertson said. “It was pretty cool getting to know that I was going to do something with my talent.”
Gertson said he will start out majoring in business or law, since Feather River doesn’t have an engineering program, but his ultimate goal is to be an engineer.
Myla Bott, College of Southern Nevada cross country and half marathon
Bott will run cross country and half marathon for College of Southern Nevada, in Henderson.
It’s a return to her roots, of a sort, for Bott, who was born in Southern Nevada.
“I came from there, so it’s kind of like going back home,” she said.
Bott ran cross country and track at Fernley, but she has never run a half marathon.
“That’s part of the cross country program, but yeah, I’m intimidated by it,” she said. “I feel like I’ve never ran for that long in a certain amount of time.”
Bott said she decided as a junior that she didn’t want to run in college but changed her mind during her senior year. She chose CSN out of several colleges she considered.
“There was a lot of different schools that I could have chose from, but the college coach that I talked to was really interested in me,” she said. “It was exciting going down there, touring the campus, meeting my coach in person.”
Bott said she plans to study business.
“The goal is to get a business degree and potentially have my own business, I don’t know of what yet,” she said. “And I want to get into real estate.”
Drake Lanning, Lake Tahoe Community College soccer
Lanning will be making the relatively short move to South Lake Tahoe, Calif. to play for the Lake Tahoe Community College Coyotes. LTCC competes in the California Community College Athletic Association League in the Golden Valley Conference (GVC).
He first drew the attention of the LTCC coaches last year while playing against them with the Battle Born FC semi-pro team. Lanning said he considered a couple of other schools but chose LTCC because he wanted to stay close to his family, the scenery, and the chance to play right away.
“I really just liked how pretty it was, and how it is over there, so I thought it would be good for me to go,” he said.
Lanning played center back for Fernley and said he will play a defensive position for the Coyotes.
“I can play anywhere, it doesn’t matter,” he said. “I’ve played in a couple college games already so I feel accustomed to, and I know what I’m going into.”
Lanning said the opportunity to play right away was one of the reasons he chose LTCC. Since LTCC is a community college, his plan is to transfer to a university after his two years there, or after one year if he plays well enough.
He said playing I collage has been his dream since he began playing soccer.
“To go to college, that means I was doing my thing,” he said. “It felt really good (to sign to play). It was like a weight lifted off my chest.”