Blacksburg High School hosts signing day for 14 student-athletes

‘These kids have been through a tough high school experience.’

BLACKSBURG, Va. – Wednesday proved to be a momentous day at Blacksburg High School as 14 student-athletes committed to continue their academic and athletic careers at the college ranks.

David Ajayi, Zachary Davis, Emily Dickerson, Mia Farley, Kai Feng, Norah Guillot, Benjamin Hager, Katja Kehlenbeck, Hunter Konarski, Jack Nussbaum, Jonas Roach, Conner Rutherford, Rylee Sloss and Tharun Svetanant all put pen to paper.

“It speaks a lot to our program and to our coaches in the program and success that we have had across a bunch of different sports,” said Blacksburg High School principal Adam Simpson. “The student athletes, I mean, you heard the coaches talk about their success in the classroom and their leadership in the building and just good character and all of that and has come through in this class. These kids have been through a tough high school experience with the COVID year, shortened seasons and they have persevered.”

Seven different Bruins athletic programs were represented.

David Ajayi, a senior track and field athlete has committed to run collegiate track and continue his academic career at Christopher Newport University. David is a two-year letterman in track and football and a member of the 2023 State Championship Indoor Track team. David was also a member of the 4 x 200 team that broke the school record at the New Balance Indoor Nationals in Boston.

Zachary Davis, a senior varsity runner will sign his National Letter of Intent to run and continue his academic career at High Point University and study exercise science. Zach is a 4-year member of the BHS Cross Country and Track teams and a captain of the cross-country team his senior year. Zach has been part of the 4X8 team that has participated in the 2022 Adidas Outdoor Nationals, Penn Relay and 2023 New Balance Indoor Nationals. He is an Adidas All American in the 4X8 in 2022. He is a multi-year VHSL all state runner placing 7th in the 1000, first in the 4X4 and 4X8 in the 2023 indoor season as well as in cross country where he finished 10th at the state meet. Zach has also been awarded the BHS Cross Country Bruin award in 2022.

Emily Dickerson, a senior third baseman, has committed to play collegiate softball and continue her academic career at Pfeiffer University. Emily is a 4-year starter for the Bruins varsity softball team. During Emily’s junior year she received the honors of 1st Team All-District utility, 1st Team All-Region 3rd Baseman, and 2nd Team All-State 3rd Baseman. Emily is also a member of the Maroon Crush softball organization. During her time with Maroon Crush, she has competed in 2 National Championships and countless other tournaments.

Mia Farley, a varsity runner for Blacksburg High School, will sign her National Letter of Intent to run cross country and track and continue her academic career at the University of Radford. Mia is a 3-year member of the Blacksburg Cross Country and Track Teams. In the past year, the Bruins have earned first-place finishes at the VHSL 4A Region D Cross Country Championship, VHSL 4A State Championship, VHSL 4A Region D Indoor Track Champions, and runner-up finishes at the VHSL 4A State Championships. Farley has achieved All-Region honors in cross country and All-State honors in track while running for the Bruins. During her senior year, Mia placed 6th in the 1000m at the VHSL 4A Indoor Track State Championships and was part of the 4x800 relay that took first place. Mia has also been awarded the BHS Cross Country Bruin Award, the BHS Indoor Track Best Newcomer Award, and the Most Improved Award. In addition to running, Mia has been a starter on the Bruins Varsity Softball Team for 4 years, where she has received all-district, and all-region honors.

Kai Feng, a senior varsity soccer player, will sign his national letter of intent to continue his academic and athletic career at Virginia Commonwealth University. Kai is currently playing for the Boys Varsity Soccer team at BHS. Throughout his high-school career, he has played club soccer for NC Fusion and VBR Star in the Elite Clubs National League and United Soccer League Academy. In the 2019-2020 season, he was selected for the Olympic Development Program East Region International Team to play in London, England. He has also played abroad in Spain, Germany, and the Netherlands. Most recently, Kai has been playing for Lynchburg FC’s pro-development team in the United Premier Soccer League.

Norah Guillot, a senior swimmer, will sign her national letter of intent to swim and continue her academic career at Virginia Tech. Norah is a 4-year state qualifier and placed top 8 all 4 years of high school in her individual events and led off the 200 medley that broke the 4A state record in 2021. The Bruin women’s team won 4A states in 2021 and were runners up in 2020. Norah was team captain this past season and has one individual school record and 2 relay records. Norah has swum on her club team for the past 13 years and has 9 relay team records and 4 individual team records. In 2020, she qualified for the NCSA Spring Championship and competed in Orlando, Florida.

Benjamin Hager, a senior track & field athlete has committed to run collegiate track and continue his academic career at Christopher Newport University. Ben is a 4-year indoor and outdoor track athlete. He is a multi-year VHSL All-State athlete and a member of the 2023 State Championship Indoor Track Team. Ben is a member of the school record indoor 4x400, outdoor Mixed 4x400 and most recently the indoor 4x200 team, which ran at New Balance Indoor Nationals in Boston. Ben is also a three-time recipient of the BHS Sprint MVP Award. Ben plans to study Marketing at Christopher Newport University. Katja Kehlenbeck, a senior varsity Track and Field runner, committed to run, jump, and pursue her academic career at Radford University. Katja is a 4-year Track and Field athlete as well as a varsity runner and team captain. Katja’s accomplishments include 2023 High Jump Indoor State Champion, 2022 Nike Indoor Nationals High Jump Emerging Elite Champion, 2022 Adidas Outdoor Nationals High Jump All American, 2022 Indoor High Jump Runner Up, 2023 Indoor High Jump and Long Jump Region 4D Runner Up. Katja holds the school record for Long Jump as well as being awarded the Field Events MVP 2x, Best Jumper Award, and MVP award. Alongside her athletic career Katja plans to major in Musical engineering.

Hunter Konarski, a senior swimmer, will sign his national letter of intent to continue his academic and athletic career at Carson-Newman University. Hunter swims backstroke, breaststroke and individual medley and is a 4-year varsity team member (2 years Owen J Roberts High School in PA and 2 years Bruins Swim & Dive Team Blacksburg High School VA). In Pennsylvania Hunter played a significant role in assisting Owen J. Roberts Swim and Dive as PAC champions 2 years in a row as well as helping Blacksburg Swim and Dive place second at Class 4 State Championship. Hunter has been a part of the H2Okie Aquatic Swim Team and has been swimming since he was 6 years old. Hunter works hard at practice every day and is one the most enthusiastic cheerers for all his teammates. In addition to attending every practice Hunter also enjoys lifting and training with his strength coach in his free time. Hunter plans to study Psychology and Exercise Science at Carson-Newman University.

Jack Nussbaum, a senior swimmer, has committed to swim and continue his academic career at Tufts University. Jack is a 4-year member of the Bruins Swimming and Diving Team. Last season, he captained the boys to take 2nd place at the VHSL Class 4 State Championships. Nussbaum was

also a contributor when the team took 2nd, 1st, and 1st in 2022, 2021, and 2020 respectively. He is the first member of the Blacksburg team to win the Hanover Hawks invitational and took 2nd at States in the 100 breast-stroke. Jack holds 2 BHS team records, earned the honor of All-American Consideration, is a USA Swimming Scholastic All American, and is a member of the Virginia Swimming All Star Team. He has swum for his club team for 13 years and qualified for the US Open in the 200 breaststroke.

Jonas Roach, a senior varsity track & field / cross country runner will be signing his national letter of intent to run and continue his academic career at the University of North Carolina Asheville. Jonas plans to study sports science while attending. Jonas was a team captain this year for both the Cross Country and Track & Field teams, and he has been a part of 2 state championship teams as well as national-qualifying relays. He finished 9th in the state during cross country, winning all-state honors there. He placed 10th in the indoor 3200m after a shortened season. Lastly, he received the Lynchpin Award for the cross-country team this year. Jonas has been a runner on the BHS team for all 4 years of high school.

Conner Rutherford, a senior cross country/track distance runner, has committed to continue his academic and athletic career on scholarship at the University of Georgia. Conner is a 4-year cross country varsity team member and 3-year indoor and outdoor varsity team member. Conner was the 2022 1600m Outdoor State Champion, 2022 Cross Country State Champion, 2023 1600m Indoor State Champion and a member of the 2023 Indoor 4x800 Relay State Champion team. He was a significant contributor to the 2022 BHS Boys Cross Country State Championship and the 2023 Boys Indoor Track State Championship. As a BHS senior he has set school records in the Cross Country 5k and Indoor 1600m, in addition to holding the #1 Virginia time in the two-mile, 3200m, one-mile, and 1600m his senior year. He was the 2022 Virginia Cross Country Gatorade Player of the Year, Nike Cross Southeast Region Champion, and a Heisman Scholarship winner. He is the 2022-2023 Key Club Division 16/17 Lieutenant Governor, a yearbook editor, member of the National Honor Society, and member of the National Sign Language Honor Society. Conner plans to study Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management at the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources.

Rylee Sloss, a senior setter, will sign her national letter of intent to play collegiate volleyball and continue her academic career at Radford University. Rylee is a 4-year member of the Blacksburg Volleyball team. In 2020, her team won the River Ridge District Championship and Region 4D Championship. Sloss played a significant role when her team won the 4D Regional Championship in 2021. She also earned a spot on the River Ridge District First Team and Region 4D First Team both her junior and senior year. She’s played club volleyball with River Valley Juniors for 6 years. In addition to volleyball, Rylee is the President of FCCLA, the Secretary for Habitat for Humanity, and a member of the National Honor Society. Rylee maintains above a 4.0 GPA and plans to major in Communications in college.

Tharun Svetanant, a senior wrestler, has committed to wrestle and continue his academic career at Washington and Lee University. Tharun is a 4-year varsity team member and captain of the BHS wrestling team. He is a two-time regional champion, three-time state qualifier and two-time state placer. Tharun discovered his passion for wrestling when he joined the middle school team and began training at VA Elite Wrestling club. He is looking forward to further developing his skills in a collegiate environment. Off the mat, Tharun is planning to study finance at Washington and Lee University.


About the Authors

Eric is no stranger to the Roanoke Valley. He is a Roanoke native and proud graduate of William Fleming High School.

John serves as the Sports Director at WSLS 10. From Virginia Tech, to NASCAR and everything in between, WSLS 10 Sports covers the names making big plays in the NBA, NFL, NHL and MLB.

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