Luverne athletes prepare for collegiate play

Published 9:24 pm Wednesday, March 27, 2024

By Haley Mitchell Godwin and Ella-Kate Tomlin
Special to The Luverne Journal

As the school year nears conclusion, four Luverne High School (LHS) seniors-Zyan Peterson, Myrez Gross, Dante Smith and Joshua Bearden, find themselves at the crossroads of collegiate athletics and higher education. With college commitments secured and graduation on the horizon, they navigate a blend of excitement, nostalgia and the realization that their high school journey is coming to an end.

Zyan Peterson, daughter of Delicia McGhee and Jamie Peterson, accepted a softball scholarship to Bishop State during a signing ceremony last December. Reflecting on her impending departure from high school sports, Peterson expressed a mix of emotions.

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“Reality has set in that my high school sports career will be coming to an end soon,” Peterson said. “All of my last sporting contests have been very emotional, knowing I’ll never compete at the high school level again. I am extremely excited for this opportunity though and am so thankful for my high school and travel ball coaches who’ve played a huge part in my success not only as a player but as a student and person.”

Coach Dale Simmons praised Peterson’s leadership and contributions to the softball team over the past four seasons, citing her role in numerous achievements.

“Zyan has been a team leader in hitting, stealing bases, and defensive assists for our past four seasons,” Simmons said. “She’s been a part of four area championships, four regional appearances, and two state tournaments. She’s been a tremendous leader, and I’m eager to see her continue.”

Under the guidance of Coach Rigby, Gross and Smith have selected Tabor College in Hillsboro, Kansas, for their academic pursuits. Rigby’s wife, head women’s basketball coach at Troy University Chanda Husser Rigby, held her first head coach position at Tabor and the Rigbys think Gross and Smith will be a perfect fit for the football program there.

Smith, aiming for a career in physical therapy, expressed gratitude for the opportunity to play college sports and pursue his academic goals simultaneously.

“Signing to play a sport in college has always been a dream,” Smith said. “I’m thankful for my teammates and coaches who taught me anything is possible, and I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity to attend college debt-free. I plan on working hard every day and always pushing myself to be better. I want to prove that I deserve this opportunity.”

Rigby praised the trio’s dedication and characterized them as embodying the essence of Luverne Tiger Football.

“They are your typical Luverne Tiger Football players: physical, hard-nosed, love contact, and just love the game and the Luverne football community,” Rigby said. “I could not be prouder of all three of these young men.”

Gross, the son of Marhia McReed and Rookie Gross, plans to major in business management at Tabor College, aspiring to become an entrepreneur in the future.

“It is all kind of surreal at the moment,” Gross said. “It is going to be a big change, but it is still a small town and that is comforting. When I was looking at other colleges, something just kept pulling me to Tabor. Something told me that this is the place where I can go and make a name for myself. Coach Rigby always told me to give it 110 even when I can’t give it 100%. He taught me a lot that I can always take with me.”

Joshua Bearden, the son of Andrew Greenblatt, will embark on his collegiate journey at Trine University in Angola, Indiana.

“Josh was a great player for the Tigers this year,” Rigby said. “We feel it is going to be a great fit for Josh at Trine University, and I expect him to definitely see some playing time right away.”

Having signed his commitment to the school in February, Bearden will major in electrical engineering.

“It’s going to be really hard to say goodbye to all my family and friends,” Bearden said. “But I’m excited to start this new chapter in my life. One thing I have learned during my time as an LHS Tiger is that hard work and dedication can take you where you want to be.”

Peterson, Gross, Smith and Bearden will always carry with them the lessons learned on the field and in the classroom at Luverne High School. Their commitment to excellence serves as an inspiration to current and future generations of Tigers, demonstrating that with hard work, dedication and the support of a strong community, anything is possible.