By Matt Turer — firstname.lastname@example.org
Republic, Mo — Five Republic seniors—Taylor Fergen, Katie Hamilton, Emily Jordan, Haven Lander, Rachel Rook—signed letters of intent Wednesday in five different sports.
One of the most overpowering pitchers in Missouri state high school history, Rook is taking her 1,021-career strikeouts to Southeast Missouri State University.
SEMO found its way onto Rook’s radar after the Tigers played in a tournament in Cape Girardeau her junior season. Opposing coaches and umpires at the tournament encouraged SEMO coaches to take a look at Rook.
“When I went and visited, there wasn’t really a deciding moment, but I just kind of felt it. I knew that it was right,” Rook said of her first SEMO visit. “I liked what the coaches were about. Just everything they did with the whole program I really liked. I could see myself playing there.”
Rook finished her senior senior season 19-7 with a 1.27 ERA and 272 strikeouts in 154.1 innings. Republic fell, 1-0, to McDonald County in its district title game. Rook, who managed the softball team when in eighth grade, finishes her career in the top-seven in state history in strikeouts, holds every Republic pitching record and led the Tigers to a 2015 district title.
“The respect kids have for her and the way she carries herself is [incredible],” Republic softball coach Lee Dishman said.
“My oldest daughter, on sports days at school, she goes dressed as Rachel [Rook]. They look up to her that much. And we have a ton of kids around our program that see [how she carries herself] and want to be Rachel Rook.”
Haven Lander is also Division I bound. The state’s defending Class 4 champion pole vaulter signed today with Pittsburg State University.
“I’m really excited because I know I get to spend the next four years [at Pitt State],” Lander said. “I’m just so excited to know I’m going to go to school there and learn and be able to continue my pole-vaulting career.”
Lander said she fell in love with the Pitt State campus on her first official visit.
“I liked how small it was and how everyone just knew each other.”
After falling just short of Rogersville junior Elleigh Spragg time and time again, Lander topped Spragg in last year’s state meet. Lander finished fourth at state as a junior and sixth as a freshman.
“We got to witness this kid win a state championship last year. For those of us there, it was quite a moment,” Republic track and field coach Tori Mooneyham said. “This is an event that takes a lot of talent. A lot of skill. A lot of hard work. She’s put numerous hours in outside of track [to get to this level].”
Lander is three-for-three in conference championships, owns a district title and has already set the Republic school record with a jump of 12 feet.
“I give her a hard time all the time because she’s the most expensive athlete I’ve ever had,” Mooneyham said. “A pole vault costs about $450, and this kid has broken two of those.
“The better you get in pole vault, the more poles you have to buy because you have to buy a bigger pole. And she just keeps getting better and better and better and we just keep buying more poles. So she’s not only the most expensive athlete in track, but probably the entire district. So she has that to always be remembered by.”
Lander, also a Republic cheerleader, was also recognized Wednesday for her speed on the track as well.
“She’s one of the fastest kids on the track team,” Mooneyham said. “She’s part of two sprint relays that have gone to state two years in a row and previously held the 4×200 school record.”
Taylor Fergen is heading to John Brown University for basketball and will be joined at JBU by Emily Jordan, who signed Wednesday to play soccer.
Republic golfer Katie Hamilton signed with Missouri S&T. Hamilton finished third at districts (tie), 11th as sections (tie) and 37th at state as a junior.