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It was Signing Day Thursday at St. Joseph High School as six seniors signed their college letters of intent. The seniors are (from left) Claire Bouquet, Jayden Dalton, Joseph Guzman, Blake Jaeckels, Rebecca Souza and Jessi van der Laan.

The theme of the day was “Thank You.”

That was the dominant message from six stellar seniors who are winding down their academic and athletic careers with the St. Joseph Knights.

“Mom and dad, thank you,” was at the top of everyone’s list of things to say when each took their turn addressing the crowd during a noontime National Letter of Intent signing ceremony Thursday at St. Joseph’s Hofschulte Gymnasium.

They each thanked their entire family, coaches, friends and teammates, saying none of this would be possible without all their help and dedication.

With their final year of high school winding down, all six are excited about their future college careers.

Claire Bouquet will continue her tennis career close to home at Cal Poly, Jayden Dalton will hit the track for San Francisco State University, Joe Guzman will play football for the University of Redlands, Blake Jaeckels will concentrate on the decathlon at Chico State, Rebecca Souza (soccer) and Jessi van der Laan (swim) will continue on as classmates at Cal Lutheran.

“These six did a great job, not just in sport but in the classroom,” said Athletic Director Tom Mott while introducing this special Class of 2016. “We’re sure going to miss them next year.”

Jaeckels was the Knights’ starting quarterback for the past two years. He has also been a standout on the track, winning the 2015 PAC 8 110 hurdles and long jump championships.

He’ll switch to the decathlon at Chico State.

“Coach (Sam Schur) talked me into it. The coaches are awesome and Chico has a really great program for decathletes,” said Jaeckels. “When I visited the school I really liked Chico. It’s a welcoming area and I felt right at home there.”

Jaeckels isn’t sure of his major yet but is thinking along the lines of agricultural business.

Bouquet, the PAC 8’s 2015 girls tennis singles champion, likes the fact that Cal Poly is close to home.

“I had a list of schools that I was considering but Poly was always at the top of the list,” said Bouquet. “Poly has a new coaching staff which I am really excited about. The girls on the team are great. I’m very happy with how things turned out. It was a good decision.”

Bouquet is planning to major in business.

Jayden Dalton ran the 100 for the Knights track team her freshman and sophomore years, moved to Washington for her junior year where she was fourth in the state, then came back to St. Joseph for her senior season which was, unfortunately, cut shot due to an injury.

“I had high expectations for myself until the injury,” said Dalton, who is the younger sister of former Cabrillo High and USC standout 800 meter man Duane Solomon. “I’m really excited to see what I can do in college.

“I was in contact with several colleges but five of those schools just dropped me when I injured my knee. San Francisco State never stopped recruiting me so I know I’m going to love this school.”

Dalton plans to major in biology with an emphasis on physiology with the goal of attending medical school.

“I’d like to get into reconstructive or plastic surgery and San Francisco has a really good medical school.”

Guzman is excited that he’ll get to continue his football career at the University of Redlands.

“When I visited the campus, I really loved it,” said Guzman. “I loved the energy. I’m going to have some great teammates. It feels a lot like the atmosphere here at St. Joe. It’s a Division III program and they’ll give me the chance to continue playing several positions.”

At St. Joseph, Guzman excelled as a running back and punt returner. He was a second team All-Los Padres League running back and first team All-LPL punt returned in 2014 and the LPL’s first team All-LPL running back and first team All Area running back in 2015.

Guzman says Redlands has a really good school of business and plans to make that his major.

Souza and van der Laan both decided on Cal Lutheran.

They had one simple reason.

“We’re best friends,” said van der Laan. “Her sport (soccer) competes in the fall and I’m (swimming) in the winter so we can go to each other’s games.”

“At first, I wasn’t thinking of Cal Lu,” said van der Laan. “But then I visited their campus and they all wanted me to join their team. I really liked the feel of the school. The coach is really a quirky guy – he reminds me of myself and I know I’ll fit in right away.”

van der Laan won several PAC 7 and PAC 8 swimming championships during her St. Joseph career. She was the PAC 7 200 yard and 500 yard freestyle champion is 2014 and won the PAC 8 500 yard freestyle championship in both 2015 and 2016.

“I’m thinking of majoring in biology but I’m really undecided,” said van der Laan.

“I decided on Cal Lu earlier than Jessi,” said Souza. “I’d gone to a couple soccer camps with their coaches. Then I went to their campus and absolutely loved it. I’m so excited that we’re both going to be able to go there.”

Souza, on the All PAC 8 League soccer second team in 2015 and first team in 2016, is planning on majoring in exercise science.


Senior Sports Reporter