By Marty Gordon
Fourteen student-athletes from Blacksburg High School made it official Wednesday afternoon as they inked letters of intent to continue their careers in college. Those moving on include: 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.
The group were introduced during a signing ceremony in the school’s gymnasium.
Senior track and field athlete David Ajayi has committed to run collegiate track and continue his academic career at Christopher Newport University.
Ajayi is a two-year letterman in track and football and a member of the 2023 State Championship Indoor Track team and was also a member of the 4 x 200 team that broke the school record at the New Balance Indoor Nationals in Boston. He plans to study accounting at Christopher Newport University.
Zachary Davis signed his National Letter of Intent to run and continue his academic career at High Point University and study exercise science. Davis is a four-year member of the BHS Cross Country and Track teams and a captain of the cross-country team his senior year. He has been part of the 4X8 team that has participated in the 2022 Adidas Outdoor Nationals, Penn Relay and 2023 New Balance Indoor Nationals, an Adidas All American in the 4X8 in 2022, and a multi-year VHSL all state runner placing seventhth 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. He has also been awarded the BHS Cross Country Bruin award in 2022.
Senior third baseman Emily Dickerson has committed to play collegiate softball and continue her academic career at Pfeiffer University and is a four-year starter for the Bruins varsity softball team. During her junior year she received the honors of first Team All-District utility, first Team All-Region Third Baseman, and Second Team All-State Third Baseman. She is also a member of the Maroon Crush softball organization. During her time with Maroon Crush, Dickerson has competed in two National Championships and countless other tournaments.
Varsity runner Mia Farley will run cross country and track and continue her academic career at the University of Radford. Farley is a three-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, she placed 6th in the 1000m at the VHSL 4A Indoor Track State Championships and was part of the 4×800 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, she has been a starter on the Bruins Varsity Softball Team for four years, where she has received all-district and all-region honors.
Soccer player Kai Feng will continue his academic and athletic career at Virginia Commonwealth University. 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, Fend has been playing for Lynchburg FC’s pro-development team in the United Premier Soccer League. He maintains a 4.0 GPA and plans to study mechanical engineering while attending VCU.
Swimmer Norah Guillot will continue her academic and athletic career at Virginia Tech. She is a Four-year state qualifier and placed top 8 all four 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. Guillot was team captain this past season and has one individual school record and two relay records. Guillot has swum on her club team for the past 13 years and has nine relay team records and four 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 4×400, outdoor Mixed 4×400 and most recently the indoor 4×200 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.
Runner Katja Kehlenbeck has committed to run, jump, and pursue her academic career at Radford University. Kehlenbeck is a four-year Track and Field athlete as well as a varsity runner and team captain.
Her 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.
She 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, she plans to major in Musical engineering.
Swimmer Hunter Konarski signed a 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 Four-year varsity team member (two years Owen J Roberts High School in PA and two years Bruins Swim & Dive Team Blacksburg High School VA).
In Pennsylvania, he played a significant role in assisting Owen J. Roberts Swim and Dive as PAC champions two 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. He works hard at practice every day and is one the most enthusiastic cheerers for all his teammates. Konarski plans to study Psychology and Exercise Science at Carson-Newman University.
Swimmer Jack Nussbaum has committed to swim and continue his academic career at Tufts University. He is a 4-year member of the Bruins Swimming and Diving Team.
Last season, he captained the boys to take second place at the VHSL Class 4 State Championships. Nussbaum was also a contributor when the team took second and first 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. Nussbaum holds two 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.
Runner Jonas Roach signed as national letter of intent to run and continue his academic career at the University of North Carolina Asheville. He plans to study sports science while attending. Roach 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 ninth 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 four years of high school.
Distance runner Conner Rutherford has committed to continue his academic and athletic career on scholarship at the University of Georgia. Rutherford was the 2022 1600m Outdoor State Champion, 2022 Cross Country State Champion, 2023 1600m Indoor State Champion and a member of the 2023 Indoor 4×800 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.
Volleyball setter Rylee Sloss will play collegiate volleyball and continue her academic career at Radford University. Sloss is a four-year member of the Blacksburg Volleyball team. In 2020, her team won the River Ridge District Championship and Region 4D Championship. she played a significant role when her team won the 4D Regional Championship in 2021 and also earning 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 six years. In addition to volleyball, Sloss 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.
Senior wrestler Tharun Svetanant has committed to wrestle and continue his academic career at Washington and Lee University. Svetanant is a four-year varsity team member and captain of the BHS wrestling team and is a two-time regional champion, three-time state qualifier and two-time state placer. Svetanant is planning to study finance at Washington and Lee University.