By BRETT MARSHALL
Garden City High School's Abbey Campbell and Johna McClelland play different sports for their respective Lady Buffs teams.
Campbell's golf team completed its 2012 season in mid-October with a fifth-place team finish, while she fashioned a third-place individual finish at the Class 6A state tournament in Wichita.
McClelland, a 6-2 center/forward, will begin her senior season with the Lady Buffs basketball team in just more than two weeks.
On Wednesday, however, the two student-athletes had back-to-back signings to national letters-of-intent to continue their athletic and academic pursuits at the collegiate level in 2013.
Campbell inked her letter first, signing with the University of Missouri-Kansas City, an NCAA Division I program that competes in the Summit League.
Less than 30 minutes later, it was McClelland's turn to put her signature on a letter to attend NCAA Division II powerhouse Washburn University in Topeka.
Campbell's signing is the second in as many seasons for the Lady Buffs to a Division I school, as Mackenzie Thayer inked with the University of Kansas a year ago and is now a freshman for the Lady Jayhawks.
"It was really a hard decision, but one of the big decisions was the nursing program there at UMKC and the school's location," Campbell said during the signing ceremony.
Campbell, who was second in the Western Athletic Conference individual standings this past season, said her visit to UMKC left her with a positive impression of Kangaroos' head coach Brianna Roderick, a former standout at the University of Michigan.
"She's got a great background in the game and I just felt real comfortable when I got to meet the other girls in the program," Campbell said. "Their program is decent right now and I hope that I can help it to be better."
Campbell chose UMKC over the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley.
"It was a tough choice, but I just thought everything clicked more at UMKC," Campbell said. "We get to practice on multiple courses in the K.C. area and they've got a place to practice indoors. They have a really good schedule and that's always important to a player."
Campbell, who said the strength of her game has been in her driving ability and iron play, said she intends to work on improving her short game from 100 yards and closer before heading off to the collegiate level.
"It's always something that you can improve, but that's the area I know I need to get better at if I'm going to shoot the scores I want," Campbell said.
She said it had been stressful season while considering options of where to play during the recruiting process.
"There was a lot of weight on my shoulders," Campbell admitted. "I talked to both coaches and it was nerve-wracking. I'm just glad to have this done."
First-year GCHS coach Melinda Base was happy with Campbell's decision.
"I'm really proud of what Abbey has accomplished," GCHS girls coach Melinda Base said. "She worked very hard, played a lot of tournaments during the summer months and became a real leader for our team."
Campbell said she went on school visits in late October. She plans to pursue a career as a nurse practitioner.
Her college coach, Brianna Broderick, is a former all-Big Ten golfer at the University of Michigan and believes Campbell has her best golf still to be played.
"She's very athletic, got that true competitive spirit and I believe will help elevate our program," Broderick said in a telephone interview Wednesday. "You can see improvement in her scoring average for the last year. She's got unlimited potential and I believe can flourish in our program."
Broderick said she first noticed Campbell at the 2011 Notre Dame de Sion tournament in which the Lady Buffs competed and finished second.
"From there, I've just followed her career and watched her play more at the end of this past summer," Broderick said. "We've beefed up our schedule and I think a combination of that and the courses we get to practice on are attractive to golfers."
For McClelland, the signing before her senior campaign will give her an opportunity to not worry about recruiting calls and visits.
"Washburn's got an amazing staff and their tradition is really strong," McClelland said of the Lady Ichabods, who compete in the Mid-American Intercollegiate Association. "I got along really well with the girls on my visit there and their coaches are so good."
The Lady Ichabods are coached by Ron McHenry, one of the most successful coaches at the Division II level during his 12 years as the head coach. Washburn begins its 2012-13 season after winning its ninth MIAA title in 12 years. The Lady Blues won the NCAA Division II title in 2005.
McHenry began recruiting McClelland this past summer when she was playing for the MoKan (2011) and Team Maximize Kansas (2012). Three of her TMK teammates will be joining McClelland at Washburn next year.
"They've got a great pre-med program," said McClelland, who will major in biology/pre-med before pursuing medical school. "Coach has indicated that I will be playing the No. 5 spot (post) but will also have a chance to play some at the No. 4 (power forward) position. With hard work, I hope I can eventually play next season. My defense has been an area that I've improved since last season, my post moves are better and my foot speed has increased, too."
McClelland said she was relieved to have the recruiting process finished.
"It definitely takes the pressure off," McClelland said after giving McHenry a verbal commitment in October. "It takes a lot off my shoulders and now I don't have to worry about where I'm going."
During the recruiting process, she also entertained offers from various schools, including Wichita State, Brown, Drake, UM-KC, Northern Colorado, Colorado State University-Pueblo, Newman University and Fort Hays State.