The road definitely hasn't been easy, but these three Pioneer Valley High School students have reached their next destination.

Katie Magni, Julien Ruiz and Stacy Jauregui, three seniors at Pioneer Valley, were honored with an on-campus ceremony Thursday for committing to continue their athletic careers at the four-year level.

Magni, a cross country and track and field standout, will compete in cross country, indoor track and outdoor track at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology in Rapid City, South Dakota.

Ruiz, another top track and cross country performer, will run at The Master's University in Santa Clarita. 

Jauregui, a three-year member of the varsity soccer team, will continue her soccer career at William Penn University in Oskaloosa, Iowa. 

The three gathered near the quad on the Pioneer Valley campus during a sunny Thursday afternoon. Athletic director Anthony Morales spoke on the importance of a positive moment for the seniors who have seen their final years of high school marred by a prolonged pandemic. 

Most area students have been out of school for more than a year. High school athletes have seen their sports seasons shortened, delayed and canceled by the coronavirus pandemic.

"It's a really, really special moment as far as what these kids have gone through," Morales said. "What they have accomplished and what they've achieved throughout all this is even more special."

Ruiz has had an especially difficult year. Riccardo Magni, a coach at Pioneer Valley and Katie's father, spoke of how Ruiz donated bone marrow to his younger sister, who is a freshman at the school. During the cross country season earlier this year, Ruiz told Riccardo Magni that his sister was diagnosed with an incredibly rare genetic condition.

Ruiz went to UCLA to donate bone marrow for his sister.

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"They bore a hole in each forearm and take out the bone marrow," Magni said. "He went to UCLA, they drilled the holes and he woke up the next day and the doctors told him they didn't get enough marrow and he had to do it again. He had another operation the next day. Sure enough, two weeks later, Julien called me and asked when practice was. He's back on varsity now and running his best times ever." 

Ruiz also overcame being ineligible earlier in his Pioneer Valley career due to grades. Magni said he has since transformed into a reliable student and team captain.

"I can tell you in 25 years of coaching and teaching — I could coach for another 25 years —  and I'd never meet another kid with the attitude, dedication and perseverance of Julien," Magni said.

Ruiz will run for the Mustangs, which compete at the NAIA level.

Katie Magni, meanwhile, celebrated her signing with the South Dakota School of Mines where she'll study civil and environmental engineering. The Hardrockers are an NCAA Division II program.

"In two years of coaching Katie, I've seen her do throws, jumps, relays and almost all the sprinting events. I've never seen someone do so many things in the span of two years," track and field coach Ben Alberry said of Magni. "There isn't anything she can't do or anything she isn't willing to try if it means it'll help the team."

Jauregui came to Pioneer Valley as a sophomore after spending her freshman year at Santa Maria High. Belina Brafman coached Jauregui for the last three seasons. 

"Stacy is an amazing kid," Brafman said. "She keeps her grades up, holds down a job and makes every single practice and every single game. She does all that with a great, big smile on her face. I'm really grateful to have been a part of her life and in the book that she's about to write. She's going to do great, amazing things."