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Senior athletes sign letters of intent for college sports, Class of 2024 sets record

Photo credit: Nina Sperling
Seniors Eleanor Madley, Izzy Jeffery, Chloe Hayden and Malia Apor embrace before signing their National Letters of Intent to continue their athletic careers in college. The community celebrated their signings April 17, and the Class of 2024 has the most college athletic commitments in Archer history.

The thumping beat of “I Gotta Feeling” by the Black Eyed Peas filled air as members of the Archer community, coaches, friends and family members gathered in the amphitheater to celebrate the four seniors signing their National Letters of Intent.

The Class of 2024 now has the record for the most athletic commitments in Archer history, with six letters of intent signed. Four of those seniors — Malia Apor, Izzy Jeffery, Eleanor Madley and Chloe Hayden — signed their official commitment letters April 17 during a celebration from 10:30-11 a.m.

“It has been a privilege and an honor to watch the four of you walk through this process with great effort and courage,” Athletic Director Kim Smith said. “You have shown up on those good days, those challenging days and all those days in between, and it’s made such a difference … know I speak for the community when I say this is a very proud moment for us.”

Before the signing, Athletic Leadership Council member Gemma Larbalestier (’24) held a Q&A with the athletes.

Sitting at a table in front of balloons of their college’s colors, seniors Chloe Hayden, Eleanor Madley, Izzy Jeffery and Malia Apor sign their letters of intent to continue their athletic careers in college. The signings took place after a Q&A with Athletic Leadership Council member Gemma Larbalestier (’24). (Photo credit: Nina Sperling)

Apor, who will be playing Division III softball at Wesleyan University, began playing softball when she was 6 years old. She said she especially enjoys the close bond and dedication to softball within her team.

Hayden will be joining the University of Chicago’s Division III track and field team. She said her parents signed her up for track and field after seeing how energetic she was, and she quickly found a passion for the sport. Hayden spoke to the challenge of balancing school and free time with playing a sport, and how having a community of people supporting her helped her throughout her time running.

“The balance of it all can put a lot of pressure on you at times. When you have school and you are already worried about having the added layer of wanting to excel in your sport, it can be really draining mentally and physically,” Hayden said. “I’m just really grateful to have had so many people in my life who constantly encouraged me: my coach and my family. It has made the entire process a lot easier for me — having people in your corner. Relying on them gets you through those hard moments.”

Madley is the first Archer athlete to commit to rowing, and she will be joining the Division III rowing team at Smith College. She started rowing on the Marina Aquatic Center junior rowing crew a few years ago. Madley shared her advice for aspiring athletes, encouraging them to persevere through uncomfortable experiences.

“For me, I think it’s continuing to put myself in saying yes to situations that are so wildly uncomfortable. If you’re a rower or play any sport, you know, because ultimately the end goal is so much more than the pain that we’re feeling in that moment,” Madley said. “That’s something that is kind of hard to learn, but once you get into the rhythm of it, it is actually really, really rewarding.”

Jeffery, who committed to play Division I volleyball at the University of California, Riverside, shared a piece of advice for athletes feeling overwhelmed by all of their commitments.

“I just wanted to say to find your failure recovery. If you’re having a bad day, find a way to treat yourself. If you had a bad play, find a way to encourage yourself,” Jeffery said. “Even if it’s just you talking to yourself — even talking to your teammates really helps because it also builds up your support system. There will be very dark times, [but] surrounding yourself with the right people; that’s very important.”

Before signing her letter of intent, during the Q&A, Apor shared a story with the audience about challenges she has faced as a softball player and how she was able to overcome them.

“I was in the [Athletic] Leadership Council … We were sitting there, and it was a Monday morning. Coach Smith wrote a star on one side and the word ‘Start’ on the other side, and she [wrote] the word ‘Yes’ under the ‘Start’ … She said the hardest part in sports will be saying yes throughout the timeline, and she said, ‘What’s the word for that?’ And she said, ‘The trudge,’ Apor said. “I think once you start enjoying the trudge of every day, of saying yes to your sport every day, saying yes to school every day, but once you love it, then it becomes a lot easier, and it becomes something that you don’t want to stop doing.”

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About the Contributor
Nina Sperling
Nina Sperling, Senior Reporter
Nina Sperling joined the Oracle in 2021. She became a senior reporter in 2022 and continued in that role for the 2023-24 school year. She loves spending time with family and friends, dancing in and out of school, reading and playing with her labradoodle Georgie. She is also passionate about politics, history, international relations, social justice and Spanish. Nina graduated in 2024.   

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