• Photo By Kyle Borne
    Alex Smith signs with McMurry pictured with tennis coach Matt Birdwell, doubles partner Dallas Ellmore and mom Dianne Smith.
  • Photo by Kyle Borne
    Lexie Allen is pictured with family and softball coach Phillip Irby after signing her letter to play at Hardin-Simmons.

GHS athletes sign college letters

Lexie Allen and Alex Smith get ready for next level of competition

Tuesday afternoon was a huge moment for two Graham High School athletes, their coaches, families and peers. On Tuesday, Lexie Allen and Alex Smith both signed letters of intent to continue their education and athletic careers in Abilene.

Allen will continue her softball career at Hardin-Simmons University. Smith will continue his tennis career at McMurry University. 

For both athletes, it was a relief to sign the letter and move forward with the next step of their lives.

“It’s actually a relief,” Blues pitcher Lexie Allen said. “It’s been just building up and building up and I have been so unsure for so long where I was going to go and I am so glad that I finally got to make the decision and actually do it.”

Smith also feels relieved and is excited about his decision.

“Oh man, it’s a relief. Picking through colleges my main priority was where I’m going to play tennis,” he said. I want a good education, but I needed to play tennis wherever I was going. My future career path is going to be a coach. That’s a necessity. I want to play in college and McMurry has a very good team and I am glad to play there. I am excited to play there. I will be going up there this summer.”

Both athletes had their own process for selecting a college. The process was arduous, but both students were able to come to a conclusion that worked best for them individually.

Smith valued the interest and faith that the McMurry coach had placed in him.

“The other schools I looked at were MSU, Hardin-Simmons was one of them, and TJC (Tyler Junior College). The thing is, McMurry is a good distance away from home, so I like it in that sense. For the most part, it’s the coach,” he said. “He has been scouting me out since the beginning of my junior year. He saw something in me and that was before I had gotten past the district. I wasn’t as good back then but he saw potential in me and he focused on me and even when I told him I couldn’t afford to go to his college and that I was going to go somewhere else he wouldn’t take no for an answer and he kept hunting me down. Once I found a way to pay for it, I was like ‘I want to go here. I want to go where a coach wants me.’ I think he is going to work well with me and I can improve greatly at McMurry.”

Allen had her own approach. For her, size, proximity and spirituality were large factors in her decision.

“I wanted to find a campus that would be a best fit me and I am more of a small town girl. I love the city. I love to go to Dallas,” she said. “I love to be out of state, but when it comes down to it I love being with my family and you know, talking about the Lord and following him and doing what I have to do to make that happen, and I just really feel like Hardin-Simmons is the best fit for me in that category.”

Allen also looked at other colleges, but felt that Hardin-Simmons was the best fit.

“Abilene Christian, and there was a lot of smaller junior colleges up state that wanted to offer me a full-ride,” she said. “I couldn’t do it. I just didn’t feel like it was the right fit. I looked at Texas State and there was a few others that I was still kind of wishy washy, Tarleton and places like that, but I got accepted to every where I applied. I just thought I needed to go to Hardin-Simmons as my best route. 

The transition over to college athletics is an exciting yet hectic time. Preparation is the key to a smooth transition for Smith.

“Practice, practice and so much more practice,” he said. “It is going to be hours and hours every day. It is going to go by so fast. I am going to be on a team with people who want to be there, and know what they are doing. It is just going to be fun.”

Graham played influential roles in both athletes future careers.

“Well, I feel like I am very prepared because I have not only played here for Coach Irby and Coach Williams, but I have also played select softball since I was six,” Allen said. “Starting when you are six years old is a big thing, because you are going and going and going and the competitiveness just builds up and finally I am at that point where I get to experience it on the college level. I am just so excited for that.”

Smith’s time at Graham enabled him to grow as a player and greatly helped spur his motivation to do more.

“Graham has prepared me in the sense of, I have had some good players to play with while I was here,” he said. “I had some that challenged me, especially from my freshman year. I played varsity tennis my freshman year, but I started from the very bottom. That was our state year, best team tennis that we have ever had in Graham history and I was a part of that. I saw how good people could be and it motivated me and I wanted to be better than the next person ahead of me and the next person and the next person and that’s what improved me.”

Allen broke school records as a softball pitcher for the Lady Blues and is satisfied with the legacy she leaves behind.

“I am so blessed to have been able to do the things I have done and been able to play with the girls I have been able to play with, and you know, go as far as we did,” she said. “We didn’t make playoffs this year, but that’s OK. We overcame adversity together as a team and that’s what we were supposed to do. We faced challenges and everything and we overcame it together and that’s what we were made to do.”

Smith’s time at Graham is not over. Smith and his doubles partner Dallas Elmore travel to College Station on May 16 to compete in the state tournament.

“Now going into state, I don’t even know what to expect,” Smith said. “I don’t know anyone who has ever gone to state. There is a chance that only person (from Graham) has gone and that was fifty years ago. We have no idea what to expect. Considering they we have the hardest region and we got second place, to the people they think are going to get first, I think we have a chance to place. Get second, third or fourth. Somewhere around that area. I think we have a good chance. We have nothing to lose. Nobody is going to judge us if we lose, and everyone is going to be ecstatic if we win.”

Both athletes have left their mark on the community and GHS. Allen is especially grateful for the support she has had throughout her career.

“Just a big thank you to any body who has supported me and to all the people who have always pushed me to do my best and chase my dreams,” she said.

The Graham Leader

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