BY BEN DUNNING – STAFF WRITER
There are many reasons that a prospective college student would want to be a Colonel. From prestigious academics and esteemed professors to the opportunity to receive a renowned education in Boyle County or almost any abroad location you could desire, Centre attracts a diverse crowd from a wide variety of locations across the country. For some students, the strong academics and earning a degree that represents more than collecting credits brings them to Centre; for others, the attraction stems from being a part of one of the most competitive Division III athletic programs in the nation. But for the student-athletes at Centre who call Danville home year-round, sporting the gold and white holds a larger meaning.
Recruiting local athletes is a consistent trend in Centre athletics. Of the 26 hometown students in the athletic program, nine of them are underclassmen. Establishing rapport with local athletes is an important part of creating and maintaining the success of any athletic program. Being able to represent your community by committing to a local school is a major recruiting pitch for high school athletes, but can also be an obstacle for coaches.
For players like Colonel football’s junior defensive end Trey Yeager, it took a little extra coaxing to stick around.
“If anything, growing up here made me not want to come here because it’s so close, but I changed my mind after I visited,” Yeager said. “There have been local sports players on Centre’s teams for a long time and I doubt that will change anytime soon.”
Internally, Centre athletics are benefitting from the relationships established among young athletes in the area. Participating in youth sports leagues, the future Colonels grew up competing with and against each other from an early age, as is the case with men’s soccer’s junior forward Christian Gateskill.
“I would say that there certainly is a bond between the local athletes in the Centre athletic program,” Gateskill said. “I have played sports with and against guys like Lloyd Hall, Brett Jones and Rob Caudill all my life so it is definitely nice to bump into those guys in the weight room or outside the locker room and see them continue their athletic careers and have success at the collegiate level. I think we are each other’s biggest supporters within the athletic community.”
For the hometown athletes like Christian and Trey, playing a sport for Centre is an experience for the whole community to share. Having the support of their families, neighbors and former teammates and coaches greatly enhances the experience of competing for Centre.
“The biggest perk of playing a sport so close to home is definitely the support. People from the community, as well as friends and family are always able to come out to games,” Gateskill said.
Yeager agreed that easy access to home games is valuable in possessing a strong support system that is rare in college athletics.
“It’s nice for my family and old friends to be able to come to all the games” he said.
Hometown pride is a powerful sentiment that often translates into on field production.
“I have a lot of pride in the city,” said Yeager. “I’ve lived here for a long time and really enjoy it. It’s a great town with a lot to be proud of.”
In high school sports, almost every athlete experiences this phenomenon as they don their school colors for every competition and battle for bragging rights in front of their community. But it is a unique opportunity to be able to translate this experience to the college level, an experience that is vital to many of the athletic teams here at Centre.