College signing period starts this week
Carita Green recalls sending her son A.J. to a summer track and field camp at Eastview High School several years ago, not knowing what to expect.
But she knew she would get an honest appraisal from camp director Jorjean Fischer, an Eastview coach and a colleague of Green’s in School District 196.
The scouting report? “You’ve got a runner on your hands, sweetheart,” is what Carita Green says Fischer told her.
Now the University of Kansas has a runner on its hands. But not just any runner – a high school state champion who’s nationally competitive and has Olympic aspirations. A.J. Green, now an Eastview senior, announced Tuesday night he would sign with Kansas when the November National Letter of Intent signing period opened the following day.
“They really worked hard to get me to come there,” said A.J. Green, who also considered Minnesota, Wisconsin, Penn State and Southern California. “They said they saw me as possibly a No. 1 guy and thought I could become one of the their top track and field athletes of all time.”
A.J. was running times in seventh grade that turned heads in the Eastview program and started earning statewide attention in the spring of 2018, his sophomore year. He won the South Suburban Conference championship in the boys 800 meters, blowing away the rest of the field as well as the previous conference record. A few weeks later he won the same race at the state Class AA meet, a feat he repeated in June 2019. Last summer he added a victory in the Brooks PR Invitational in Seattle and a fourth place in the USA Track and Field Under-20 Championships.
Earlier this month Green finished third in the Class AA cross country meet in Northfield. He competed in two seasons of varsity cross country and earned All-State both years. Green said he doesn’t plan to run cross country at Kansas.
“I had fun doing cross country, but 8K and 10K (the college race distances)? No thanks,” he told a group of family and friends that gathered at Eastview High for his announcement.
Green said he felt comfortable when visiting each of his five finalists, but Kansas was the one that felt most like it could be home. Jayhawks coach Stanley Redwine, a two-time U.S. 800-meter champion, visited Green’s home twice. Redwine also will be an assistant coach for the 2020 U.S. men’s Olympic team, significant because Green said after winning his first state 800-meter title he wanted to run in the Olympics someday.
It won’t hurt that Kansas is a little warmer, too. “That should be good for him,” Carita Green said. “He runs on his own in the winter and sometimes comes back with scratches from slipping and falling on the ice.”
A.J. Green has a 3.97 grade-point average and plans to major in chemical engineering at Kansas. “I wouldn’t have gone there if they didn’t have what I wanted to study,” he said.
At Tuesday’s gathering, Green became emotional while thanking his coaches, particularly Eastview boys track and cross country coach Tom Sharp. His parents were thankful, too. A.J. has not had a major injury, and Carita Green – who ran track at the University of Wisconsin-Stout and still holds two school records – said she’s convinced it’s because the coaches did not overburden him.
At least one of A.J.’s parents accompanied him on all his campus visits. Al Green, A.J.’s father, said they didn’t try to steer him to a particular school but wanted to make sure he had what he needed to make an informed decision.
“Whatever you decide, you have to be sure because it’s going to be your home for the next four years,” Al Green said.
A.J. Green is one of two Eastview seniors signing with Kansas this week. Claudia Dougan, who will compete in the state girls swimming and diving meet this weekend, will continue in that sport with the Jayhawks.
Wednesday was the first day of the Division I and II college signing period for athletes in every sport except football.
Football has an early signing period Dec. 18-20 followed by a regular signing period that starts Feb. 5, 2020.
Following are local athletes expected to sign this week:
Aiden Byrne, baseball, Minnesota State Mankato; Tony Asta, golf, Minnesota State Mankato; Josalynn Abbott, golf, South Dakota State; Jenna Ruiz, hockey, Franklin Pierce; Kaylyn Madison, volleyball, Minnesota Duluth.
Austin Greven, baseball, Winona State; Steven Crowl, basketball, Wisconsin; A.J. Green, track and field, Kansas; Emily Askvig, soccer, Viterbo; Lauren Johnson, soccer, Sioux Falls; Cora Smith, soccer, Iowa; Claudia Dougan, swimming and diving, Kansas.
Gavin Lund, baseball, Concordia-St. Paul; Molly Mogensen, basketball, Creighton; Katelyn Mohr, softball, Minnesota Duluth.
Peter Tveite, baseball, Winona State; Lauren Jensen, basketball, Iowa; Sarah Kuma, basketball, Concordia-St. Paul; Jade Edenfield, lacrosse, Rockhurst; Chloe Fisher, lacrosse, Louisville; Jana Korb, lacrosse, Concordia-St. Paul; Geneva Mattis, lacrosse, James Madison; Olivia Mattis, lacrosse, James Madison; Jenna Beckstrom, softball, Minnesota; Kaitlyn Young, softball, Eastern Kentucky; Halle Wolfe, volleyball, Drake.
Annie Guentzel, basketball, Wayne State; Haylee Wheeler, basketball, Minnesota Crookston; Gavin Cronkhite, golf, North Dakota State; Brandon Sperling, golf, Concordia-St. Paul; Bennett Thomas, golf, Winona State; Lindsey Maloney, hockey, Rochester Institute of Technology; Grace Swail, lacrosse, Mercer; Katilyn Hanson, soccer, North Dakota State; Sammy Ponsonby, soccer, Concordia-St. Paul; Ashlyn Waldon, soccer, Concordia-St. Paul; Mia Zagorski, soccer, Northern State; Makenna Johnson, softball, South Dakota State; Winter Craig, swimming and diving, Tulane; Ben Mandel, track and field, Concordia-St. Paul; Payton Stier, volleyball, Concordia-St. Paul; Emily Torborg, volleyball, Mary.