If they land a spot at the next level, many high school multi-sport athletes must decide which one they will play at their school of choice.
St. Joseph senior Noah Skarda won’t have to do that. That’s a big reason he committed to NCAA Division III University of Northwestern earlier this month. He will play football and baseball there.
Division III schools cannot award athletic scholarships, but Skarda said Northwestern, a private, Christian university, gave him a good amount of academics-related financial aid.
Northwestern is based in Roseville, Minnesota, near St. Paul.
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Skarda was a wide receiver-cornerback for the St. Joseph football team which earned its third straight Mountain League championship last April. He was a pitcher-catcher for the Knights baseball squad that qualified for the 2021 CIF Central Section playoffs.
Northwestern was “the last school I talked to,” Skarda said in a recent interview.
“I talked to Allegheny College in Pennsylvania, La Verne in California and Culver-Stockton in Missouri. All the other schools talked about football. I was leaning toward baseball.”
Skarda was an all-league selection at wide receiver in football his junior year (the Knights played just five 2021 games in football, this spring, because of the pandemic. They went 5-0).
In 2021 baseball, “I had a 3.30 ERA as a pitcher. I had a .460 on-base percentage and batted .290,” as a hitter, Skarda said.
“I was the ace of the pitching staff. That’s an unusual position for me. I’m used to closing. I like being in on every play, and as a pitcher or catcher I get to do that,” in baseball.
Skarda was already impressed with Northwestern during his in-person visit to the campus. He went late last January, when the virus numbers nationwide were awful.
“I know. That’s crazy,” that he was able to make an in-person visit to a campus when he did, said Skarda.
“It was 3 degrees when I was there, there was snow all over the place and there was another snowstorm when I left.”
Skarda said, “The coaches wanted to be sure I was there when the campus was at its coldest.”
The weather at the Minnesota school apparently didn’t faze Skarda, and he was struck by the warmth students there showed him.
“I know ‘It’s like a family’ is a cliché, but everyone knew each other, and when I was walking around the campus with the coach (other students) made a point of stopping and shaking my hand.”
Skarda saw some features at Northwestern that, well, he would not have been able to see at many other schools.
“You can actually walk underneath tunnels to get to some of the classes. It was originally a Catholic boys school, and some of the architecture there is really impressive.”
Skarda said, “The school is surrounded by three lakes. They were frozen over when I was there, and students were playing ice hockey, skating. There were tents all around the lakes. Students were so friendly.”
Northwestern won the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference baseball championship, at 15-1, in 2021 and came within a game of making the best-of-three NCAA Division III World Series final.
“My parents and I livestreamed the World Series,” said Skarda. “That was pretty cool.”
He will major in psychology at the University of Northwestern.