One of life's major decisions is now in the rear-view mirror for Justin Charles Hammond, Justin Merriweather and Katie Aleman, in the wake of a Monday celebration at North Augusta High School.
All three put their signatures to paperwork to confirm their plans to be student-athletes at the next level: Merriweather for football at Methodist University, in Fayetteville, North Carolina; Hammond for football at Erskine College, in Due West; and Aleman for softball at Spartanburg Methodist College.
Aleman, who traditionally plays left field, was at North Augusta for her sophomore and junior years, having previously been at Westside, in Augusta, and having lived in Texas prior to her CSRA time.
She gave a thumbs-up assessment of Caroline Hill, Spartanburg Methodist's head softball coach, and also of the college as a whole. "It will be a lot of fun," she said.
Hammond, a defensive end, will be in an unusual situation, as he joins a football program that was discontinued after the 1951 season and is due to be back in business for 2020. "Football is my dream. I just want ... to continue to get better," he said.
The Abbeville County college, he said, has several CSRA players on its football roster – a factor that helped his decision, along with the "good atmosphere." Hammond, now listed at 205 pounds and 6-foot-3, said he plans to study engineering.
Merriweather, a defensive back, is now listed at 5-foot-10 and 195 pounds. He said he expects to serve as a strong safety and outside linebacker and plans to study psychology and also pursue a minor in music, possibly en route to work as a guidance counselor.
He said Methodist University has a new coaching system and was told that he would be "a great fit" for the program, considering his size and speed.
Richard Bush, one of the Yellow Jackets' assistant defensive coaches, commented on Merriweather and Hammond.
He described Hammond as "a good pass rusher who gets after the quarterback and plays hard," and noted that Hammond's hard work in the weight room helped him to grow in strength and size, resulting in better effectiveness against the run.
"He's long, tall and athletic. He's best at rushing the passer and causing havoc that way," Bush added. "He's a good student. I expect him to do well at Erskine."
He also described Merriweather as having a strong work ethic, as demonstrated by an injury that cut his senior season in half. "He was bound and determined to get the opportunity to play at the next level ... He's another kid that does a pretty good job in a classroom and has worked extremely hard," Bush said.