A distinguished day in the Central Section on Wednesday matched a pair of fathers and daughters in an improbable journey, Buchanan do what perhaps nobody has in the region and Joey Souza turn away The Tide.
Souza, one of the leading long jumpers in section history, signed a National Letter of Intent with North Carolina of the Atlantic Coast Conference.
The Tar Heels landed the state silver medalist in what came down to a three-horse race of national thoroughbreds.
In the end, he turned away Nebraska.
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And, imagine this: he eschewed and Alabama as well.
Further, it came two months after he sat among 101,821 fans at Bryant-Denny Stadium on his official visit to Tuscaloosa and saw the Crimson Tide defeat Florida 42-21 in their annual Southeastern Conference showdown.
“I mean, it was a tough choice,” says Souza, whose long jump of 24 feet and 10 inches last spring was No. 7 all-time in the section and No. 4 in the nation for the season. “It was a crazy experience visiting those big universities.”
And ’Bama? “Oh man, massive, a mind-blowing experience. If I compared facilities and how great the school is itself, Alabama would have definitely won. But what swayed me at North Carolina was the team and how well I fit in. I fell in love with their team.”
Buchanan of the Tri-River Athletic Conference has for 20 years drawn the affection of colleges across the board in more than 20 sports.
But the Bears ascended to yet another level by having what’s believed to be a section-record 12 athletes apply their signatures on a given signing day. It featured four in baseball alone, including Ross Dodds and Zach Ashford to Fresno State. And the Buchanan bash also counted Ryan Smith choosing Stanford in volleyball and long-distance star Hannah Benoit picking Arizona State in a late call over Washington.
And then there was USC’s bonanza of sweeping Clovis North’s Mikaela Smith, a two-time state 800-meter champion, and Edison’s Lyndsey Lopes, a nationally ranked heptathlete who has transferred from Clovis West.
This came 25 years after their fathers, Mike Smith and Pete Lopes, met while living in Visalia before their professions sailed them far apart.
“Amazing how life works,” Mike Smith says. “Pete ends up traveling all over the U.S., me all around the state, we end up in the same city and our daughters are going to the same college.”