By Josh Brown
CASSTOWN — Year after year, Miami East High School has seen class after class of talented female athletes move on to the next level.
This past year was no exception.
Five Miami East graduates — Renee DeFord, Anna Kiesewetter, Kris Bigelow, Olivia Edgell and Abby Hawkins — all committed to colleges. The group represents a diverse range of both sports and academic interests, but all five will be continuing their athletic careers at the next level.
* Renee DeFord,
Renee DeFord won 12 varsity letters while at Miami East, playing girls basketball, soccer and running track.
When it came time to choose where to go to college, though, sports weren’t the deciding factor.
So while DeFord will be continuing her basketball career at Mount Union University, a Division III school in northern Ohio, her main focus will be her actual area of study.
“When I started looking into where I wanted to go, the biggest thing for me was academics,” DeFord said. “I wanted to go to school for Integrated Media, and they offered my major and have a radio station nearby in Cleveland that offers internships calling ballgames.”
The Purple Raiders pursued DeFord from early in the process, and when it came down to it, their media program was too good to pass up.
“They were one of the first colleges to contact me my junior year, and they kept contacting me,” DeFord said. “It was the first school I went to visit, and they just have an amazing campus. I like the coach and the girls on the team. They’re all such great people. I’m super excited to get the chance to keep playing my favorite sport.”
And with some of the basketball teams DeFord has played on while at Miami East — including three regional appearances — she’ll be right at home playing in college.
“It’ll help a lot,” DeFord said of her experience with the Vikings. “My freshman year, I kind of felt like I was playing on a college team. I’ve been with great leaders and players over the years, and hopefully I can take what they taught me on to the next level.”
* Anna Kiesewetter,
Anna Kiesewetter knows plenty about competing for playing time on a team loaded with talent.
So when she was looking for a college, she was hoping to find a similar atmosphere to Miami East High School — and she found that at Heidelberg University, a Division III school in northern Ohio, where she will continue her volleyball career.
“Being on a competitive high school team has definitely helped me,” Kiesewetter said. “Heidelberg has a really competitive team, and I wanted to compete with my teammates for my spot. I’ve had to do that my whole high school career. When you know your position is on the line, it drives you to work harder.”
Kiesewetter was a libero for the Vikings, who won two state titles and reached the regional semifinals twice during her four-year career. She plans on studying Nursing at Heidelberg.
“I like the area a lot,” Kiesewetter said. “I like that it’s a small town, kind of like my high school. And it’s a two-hour drive, so it’s a good distance but not too far from home.
“I really like the coach. He’s a really energetic guy, and he’s very focused on defense, which is my position. And it’s a great group of girls, too. I’m excited for it.”
* Kris Bigelow,
After graduating from Miami East, Kris Bigelow knew she wanted to go to a college that felt similar.
“With the class sizes and the way the campus felt when I went to visit, Capital University just made me feel comfortable,” Bigelow said. “Coming from a small high school, I didn’t want to go to a huge school with hundreds of kids in a class.”
And for Bigelow, who will continue her softball career at the small Division III school in Columbus, it’s the next logical step — especially considering the fact that she’s already familiar with Capital.
“I started going to their softball camp when I was in eighth grade, so I’ve been developing a relationship with their coach (Nan Payne) for five years now.
“I sat in on one of their practices once, and one of the girls was having trouble at home. They all bent down on one knee and said ‘we may not technically be a family, but we we are a family. We’re all here for each other.’ It just made me feel at home.”
That wasn’t the only parallel she saw to Miami East, either.
“On campus, they have these fountains that are open to the community, and I saw people bringing their children to them. The community is really tight-knit, and it reminded me of Miami East a lot.”
Bigelow, who plans on studying Pre-Occupational Therapy, had a solid career as a Viking. Her senior year, she broke the school’s single-season record for home runs with eight, and she finished her career with 11 homers.
“When I was a sophomore, I was kind of thrust into playing center field on varsity,” Bigelow said. “It really gave me a lot of leadership skills. Even though I was just a sophomore, I was helping juniors and seniors fix things they were working on. Coach (Brian) Kadel helped me out with a lot of stuff, and I’m hoping I can use my experience to help other people.”
* Olivia Edgell,
Olivia Edgell has plenty of memories from her time at Miami East.
She’s hoping that some of those experiences will help her as she moves on to the next level, as she will attend Walsh University in the fall and continue her softball career with the Division II Cavaliers.
“It will help a lot,” Edgell said. “(Miami East softball) coach (Brian) Kadel is a good coach and helped me become the player I am today. He and (Walsh softball) coach (Jaime) Porter are both really similar, so the transition should be really easy.”
Edgell, who plans on studying Early Childhood Education, said that the college felt like home, and the similarities between its softball program and the Vikings were just a bonus.
“I chose Walsh because I like the atmosphere. It has a really welcoming atmosphere,” she said. “They seem to have a good softball program they’re building, too. The coaching staff and the girls are all amazing.
“I’m excited, and I’m looking forward to making a lot of new memories. I’ve got lots of memories from Miami East made with people I’ve known my whole life, and I’m looking forward to meeting brand new people and making memories with them.”
* Abby Hawkins,
In addition to winning 10 varsity letters, playing girls basketball and running track and cross country, during her high school career at Miami East, Abby Hawkins was also the class of 2015 valedictorian.
And she’ll be continuing her athletic career in a pair of sports, as she will attend Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Indiana, where she plans on running cross country and competing in track and field.
Hawkins plans on studying Biomedical Engineering while running for the Division III Fighting Engineers.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.