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Moving on

Three Hillbillies make college choices official

Pictured, from left: Fredonia seniors Owen Rush, Jameson Quinn and Ella Koopman sign their NCAA celebratory signing forms Thursday evening at Fredonia High School to continue their athletic careers in college.

FREDONIA — Three of the top student-athletes at Fredonia High School shared the spotlight Thursday evening in the high school library, surrounded by family and friends. With articles on the walls surrounding them to highlight each of their stellar high school athletic careers, Ella Koopman, Owen Rush and Jameson Quinn all took the next step toward becoming college athletes as they signed their official NCAA celebratory signing forms.

First to sign was Koopman, who committed to play women’s soccer at Nazareth University in Rochester. She follows in the footsteps of both of her parents, who each played college sports at Nazareth. Her mother, Carly, played tennis at Nazareth and her father, Jarod, was a two-time All-American lacrosse player who was inducted in the school’s Hall of Fame.

Ella, herself, was a three-sport varsity athlete at Fredonia, the past two years in soccer, basketball and flag football. She claimed three straight Section VI championships in soccer, led the basketball team to a sweep of Dunkirk this year including a game-changing half-court shot, then finished off her athletic career with a sectional championship as the starting quarterback on the Hillbillies flag football team.

“She is the type of young female athlete that other girls should aspire to be,” flag football coach Nick Bertrando said of Koopman after her final game at the Orange Bowl.

A five-year starter on the soccer team beginning in eighth grade, Koopman was a Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Athletic Association Division 1 West First-Team All-Star in her junior and senior seasons. She was also a two-time OBSERVER/Post-Journal All-Star as the team claimed three straight blue patches, a feat so impressive she said it might never be accomplished again.

OBSERVER Photo by Braden Carmen Ella Koopman finalized her commitment to Nazareth University in Rochester at a signing ceremony Thursday at Fredonia High School. Koopman was joined by her father, Jarod, and her mother, Carly.

“Having that three-peat with the girls and with my coaches, it’s something I’ll always remember,” Koopman said. “It’s a great memory to have, and I don’t know if anyone will ever do it again.”

Koopman’s dedication as an athlete was exemplified by her decision to play in the Section VI flag football championship game instead of attending her senior prom, which fell on the same night. Koopman, a team captain, led the Hillbillies to a Division 2B title that night. Her final high school athletic contest was a crossover flag football game at Highmark Stadium, where the team met Buffalo Bills players Dion Dawkins and Damar Hamlin.

At Nazareth, Koopman is unsure of what she will focus on academically off the bat, but has her eyes on legal studies, business and criminology. She called the campus “a welcoming place” and expressed her admiration for the soccer program’s “supportive atmosphere.” She hopes the program will push her to not only be a better soccer player, but also a better person.

“I’m very competitive and I definitely want to add to their program,” Koopman said. “I just want to push myself and work for everything I’ve given there.”

Next to sign was Rush, who will be joining the reigning NCAA Division III national champion Cortland Red Dragons football team as a lineman. Rush will reunite with former Fredonia teammate Matt Lotter at Cortland, which he noted was part of the decision process, along with how he felt when he visited the campus. The program’s recent championship played a bit of a role, as well.

OBSERVER Photo by Braden Carmen Owen Rush finalized his commitment to SUNY Cortland to join the defending NCAA Division III national champion football team Thursday evening. Owen was joined by his mother, Kathy, and his father, Jim.

Coincidentally, Rush’s connection with Lotter is more impactful than it appears on the surface. Rush plans to study to become a physical education teacher, like Lotter’s mother, Joanne. Rush credits Joanne Lotter for inspiring him to become a P.E. teacher.

“In my sophomore year, I took a couple health classes with Mrs. Lotter, and I’ve got to give her a lot of credit, she pushed me,” Rush said. “I really loved her classes and that’s what kind of pushed me to go for Phys. Ed. and want to learn about that.”

Rush’s choice certainly gained the respect of his own family, as his mother, Kathy, is an elementary teacher in the district, as well. His father, Jim, has been an assistant baseball coach of his dating back to little league, and also coaches Fredonia’s varsity boys soccer team. Rush joked, however, that even though his opinion changed later in life, his family would be the first to say that he was less than thrilled to come to school each day as a child.

An injury last summer at the peak of recruiting season for potential college baseball players limited Rush’s exposure on the diamond, but come football season, he got all the attention he needed as a dominant lineman. Rush was a First-Team Class C South All-Star selection and earned the Class C South Lineman of the Year award. He was also an OBSERVER/Post-Journal All-Star, and earned Third-Team All-WNY and all-state honors.

Down the line, Rush hopes to become the kind of coach he had in his time at Fredonia, through playing baseball, bowling and football at the varsity level.

OBSERVER Photo by Braden Carmen Jameson Quinn made his commitment to play college football at St. John Fisher University official Thursday. He is joined by his mother, Susan Johnson, seated left; his father, Jim Quinn, seated right; his sister, Mackenzie Quinn, standing left; and his stepmother, Amanda Drummond, standing right.

“They all knew how to coach the right way, and they all pushed me in the right direction,” Rush said. “They gave me what I needed to go to the next level.”

The last of the three signings Thursday evening was Quinn, who will be playing college football at St. John Fisher University in suburban Rochester. Quinn, an OBSERVER/Post-Journal All-Star this past season, is a two-time sectional finalist. He also earned Third-Team All-State honors as a wide receiver this past fall.

Quinn chose St. John Fisher University because it felt like home when he visited the campus. “The way I could fit in there was like no other place I visited,” he said. “It was just an amazing fit right from the start.”

Quinn believes he is set up for future success because of the support he received throughout his formative years at Fredonia, especially through the football program. He noted how many members of the coaching staff attended the signing ceremony to offer their support, which was apparent in many ways throughout his time with the program.

“Something that I took from Fredonia was definitely the family mindset that we had here, especially in the football program. Everyone had each other’s back. There was never a day or a moment when you weren’t backed up by your brothers on the team, and even by the coaches,” Quinn said. “… This coaching staff really is like no other.”

At St. John Fisher, Quinn will be enrolled in a six-year degree program in pharmacology. Quinn knows the importance of being more than just an athlete, but a student-athlete and a difference maker away from the gridiron, as well. He can’t wait to show St. John Fisher exactly what kind of recruit they landed.

“What they are getting in me is definitely a player who is going to give it their all, and more than just a player on the field. I believe that my ability off the field is just as impactful as on the field,” Quinn said. “I’m a leader by communication and a leader by example. When you get me, you get a leader and you get someone who is going to try their best at everything they do.”

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