By REBECCA ISENHART
NISKAYUNA — Parents, sibling and friends filled the seats of the Little Theater at Niskayuna High School on Nov. 12 to watch a row of seniors commit to pursuing their dreams.
A big celebration has become tradition at the school on “signing day,” the first day high school athletes in their senior year are permitted to sign binding letters of intent to the colleges of their choice.
This year, the collective congratulations were more numerous than ever.
“We’ve never had 14 students committing on signing day,” said Niskayuna High School Principal John Rickert.
The students sat behind a table covered in a Niskayuna red tablecloth. Each had a special sign with his or her college’s logo and chosen sport, and every student was decked out in spirited college colors.
Rickert went down the row, reading a short biographical statement for each student athlete.
“We have made this our own tradition here,” he said. “We celebrate it together, as a community.”
It was a much-awaited moment. The students were confident in their decisions, but some said they were nervous, anyway.
Sophie Wisoff said during class before the signing, she and fellow rower Rachel Padula were fighting butterflies.
“[We said] ‘Oh my God, in 45 minutes we’re going to be signing with colleges, and it’s all so real,’ ” Wisoff recalled.
The signing itself lasted seconds, but the community pride was evident as guests rushed down to the floor of the auditorium to snap pictures.
Moments after Aidan O’Brien signed his name to a paper that promised he’d play lacrosse at UNC Chapel Hill, his three siblings rushed down to join him in a photograph, all dressed in his future school’s light blue.
His sister Abby, 16, also attends Niskayuna High School, but their two youngest siblings, Kelsey, 13, and Leo, 11, had to be signed out of class to head over to the High School for the event.
O’Brien said having his whole family there meant a lot to him, especially after they encouraged him through his college decision process.
“They traveled with me to most of the schools we went to,” he said. His siblings managed to enjoy themselves through it, too.
“My brother was excited to meet all the coaches,” O’Brien said.
When softball player Stacy Gordon committed to Lafayette College, she was surrounded by her family, as well as her coaches.
“The atmosphere is great. The team is awesome,” Gordon said. She plans to major in economics or psychology, and eventually hopes to get her MBA.
“It has a combination of athletics and academics,” she said. “I think the atmosphere will help me be successful.”
Gordon’s longtime coaches, Kara and Brian DiPiazza, appeared more emotional than she was as they left the signing event.
“It was surreal,” said Kara, who coached Gordon for 10 years. Brian coached her for three.
“What a wonderful experience,” Kara said. “I couldn’t be happier for her.”