Seven Blair High School student-athletes celebrated their futures Wednesday morning.
Seniors Ethan Baessler, Greta Galbraith, Ben Holcomb, Braden McGill, Joslyn Policky, Dylan Swanson and Gavin Ulrich signed up for college sports officially, wearing their new teams' apparel for photos at BHS by parents, friends and coaches. They will continue to compete in track, football, softball and baseball next school year — their first after graduation in May.
Ethan Baessler, South Dakota track
Blair senior Ethan Baessler accomplished almost all a high school sprinter can last May.
He won Class B gold medals, broke state and school records, and led his Bears to a runner-up finish at state.
On Wednesday, though, Baessler celebrated his future with the South Dakota Coyotes. He had college options in both football and track, but chose sprinting again after picking it over baseball as a sophomore.
“It really came down to what I felt like I could be more successful in,” the senior said of his college decision.
The Division I Coyotes compete in the Summit League under the direction of Lucky Huber. Their sprints coach is Teivaskie Lewin.
“They really like how well I've developed in the sport of track,” Baessler said. “They have faith in me and I have faith in them.”
Before attending school in Vermillion, though, the Bear has one more prep track season ahead where he hopes to top his success as a state champion junior.
“Try to accomplish those same things, but even more,” he said of his goals.
Greta Galbraith, UNK track
Senior pole vaulter Greta Galbraith likes the environment at the University of Nebraska-Kearney.
The Blair standout likes the Lopers' track and field coaches, too.
“I like that it's a good distance away,” she added, laughing Wednesday.
UNK's newest signee finished third in Class B at last May's NSAA State Championships in Omaha. She cleared a career-best 11 feet, capping her second state trip on the podium at Burke Stadium.
This spring, though, Galbraith wants to continue on the path she's set for herself as a top pole-vaulter.
“Just have fun and compete to the best of my ability,” she said of her plans. “See how far I can go.”
While she's competed in other track and field events and was an outfielder on last fall's state runner-up softball team, pole vault is a special event to the Blair Bear.
“It's just something I can always have fun with no matter what happens,” Galbraith said. “All the work I've put in, it's fun when it pays off.”
Ben Holcomb, NW Missouri State football
Ben Holcomb listed four reasons he picked Northwest Missouri State to continue his career in football.
The BHS linebacker made connections with the Bearcat coaches, like the facilities and more.
“The game day atmosphere is crazy,” he said. “And, obviously, just a bad loser and they're the winningest (NCAA) D2 in the country.”
As a result, Holcomb's college mission is to contribute toward a national championship.
“That's the big goal, but, other than that, I'd just like to get on the field as soon as I can and just start playing,” he said.
Last fall, the two-way player finished with 58 total tackles and 14 pass catches, earning all-state and Eastern Midlands Conference (EMC) honorable mention. His senior season was a highlight.
“We started out really rough, but we came back and we fought,” Holcomb said. “I was proud of us for doing that.”
Braden McGill, Wayne State College track
Multi-sport athlete Braden McGill wasn't sure about his future in track and field until receiving some guidance from his BHS coaches.
“I went to some camps and I talked to the Wayne State coach there, actually,” the senior thrower said, noting his first meeting with Wildcats throws coach Carly Fehringer. She liked his potential.
“I visited (Wayne) and I thought that it was very nice place where I could really pursue my academics along with track,” McGill said. “I picked that place because of the opportunity to do it and the care that they have for us because really do seem like they care.”
Before becoming a Wildcat, though, the Bear has a mission this spring during his final high school season.
“My goal is to place at least top-three in discus and shot, and not scratch out in both events like last year,” McGill said, cracking a smile. “Just doing that and focusing on getting better for college.”
Joslyn Policky, Southwestern CC softball
Senior Joslyn Policky feels she ended her Blair softball career right.
The everyday Bears catcher hit at a .342 average last fall as her team took second in Class B.
“I feel like all of us had a really good season,” she said. “There was a lot to be proud of.”
Now, though, the multi-sport athlete is looking forward to a Southwestern Community College career in Creston, Iowa.
“I went to a lot of colleges on a lot of visits and none of them felt like home until I went there,” Policky said. “It's a really small town atmosphere and I really like the coaches.”
The catcher plans to play two years of softball for coach Danny Jensen, who attended Wednesday's signing, before moving onto medical school.
Dylan Swanson, Doane baseball
Two days before the Doane Tigers were set to start their 2024 baseball season, Blair's Dylan Swanson celebrated signing with the Crete university Wednesday morning.
“It just felt like the right fit for me,” the left-handed pitcher said, citing his positive impressions of the campus, coaches and culture within the program.
The Tigers give the Bear the opportunity to keep improving.
“I just want to be able to compete at the highest level and add to that culture,” Swanson said. “Keep the success going.”
Last spring season, the senior notched 13 RBIs at the plate, while also pitching to a 2-1 record with a 1.08 ERA. He had 28 strikeouts in 26 innings and wants to achieve even more this spring.
“Maybe we can make a good run this year,” the soon-to-be Tiger said.
Gavin Ulrich, Wayne State College football
Blair senior lineman Gavin Ulrich is set to join his older brother Nolan on the Wayne State College football roster next fall. He said Wednesday his sibling had a lot to do with his college decision.
“He influenced me to play football in the first place,” Ulrich said.
The EMC honorable mention recipient joins a prominent list of former Bears to join the Wildcats in recent years. Nolan contributed each of the past two seasons, while Dex and Dane Larsen and Wyatt Ogle were also roster members this past fall. Dex Larsen, a linebacker, earned postseason honors after his play at linebacker last season.
Ulrich, meanwhile, wants to work his way into his own playing time in Wayne.
“I'm going to redshirt this first year and just slowly make my way up the lineup,” he said. “Try to get some snaps in my redshirt year and just go on from there. Be the best I can be.”
At BHS, the lineman's favorite memory was beating Elkhorn for the first time in decades last fall.
“It was a very fun game,” Ulrich said.
Altogether, Enterprise Media Group is aware of 23 Blair college sports signees this school year. Those who signed prior to Wednesday are: Reese Beemer (South Dakota State track), Brady Brown (South Dakota State baseball), Leah Chance (Wayne State softball), Allie Czapla (Wayne State cross-country/track), Reece Ewoldt (UNK cross-country/track), Anissa Hill (Iowa Western CC shotgun sports), Tanner Jacobson (Could County CC baseball), Nessa McMillen (Nebraska softball), Savanah Roan (Southeast CC volleyball), Bria Scott (Peru State softball), Bode Soukup (Nebraska football), Kalli Ulven (UNK softball), J'Shawn Unger (Nebraska baseball), Nate Wachter (South Dakota State baseball), Hayden White (Iowa Western CC shotgun sports) and Sophia Wrich (Iowa Western CC softball).