Signing Day not just for football

Academic Magnet swimmers Cooper Pitts (left), who is going to Virginia Tech, Elaine Zhou (center), who is going to Princeton and soccer player Madeleine Carens, who is going to Swarthmore, share a laugh during Charleston County School District National Signing Day ceremony on Wednesday.

When her name was announced at the Charleston County School District’s Signing Day ceremony, an embarrassed smile crossed the lips of Academic Magnet state champion swimmer Elaine Zhou as the crowd loudly applauded.

Like many high school seniors across the state and the nation, Zhou moved one step closer to starting a new chapter in her life. Next fall, she will be swimming for Princeton University.

Zhou and more than two dozen other student-athletes from across Charleston County were honored Wednesday morning.

“It’s my senior year and I know everything is going to change and I kind of got caught up in the moment,” said Zhou, who wiped tears from her eyes during the ceremony. “I’m going to miss my friends, the school and everyone I’ve known the last four years. I’m growing up and going to college and that’s a new thing for me. I know it’s going to be a good thing and it’s going to be fun, but it’s also a little scary at the same time.”

Zhou helped lead Academic Magnet to the school’s first state title in girls swimming. Zhou won the gold medal in the 100-yard butterfly and a silver medal in the 100-yard breaststroke. She also was a member of the 200-yard medley relay and the 400-yard freestyle relay, which finished second. Zhou also won gold in the butterfly event as a junior.

Zhou said her decision came down to Princeton, Yale and Georgia Tech. She visited Princeton and Yale.

“When I hung out with the team it felt like family,” Zhou said. “The culture, the people there, it felt like I could fit in there. Yale was really nice, but it was more of a big city, and Princeton has such a beautiful campus. It just felt more like home to me.”

Zhou said she’s not sure which events she’ll swim in college.

“They haven’t really told me what I’ll be doing, but I assume it’ll be some of the same events I’m swimming now,” Zhou said. “I’m pretty sure I’ll do some butterfly and breaststroke and maybe some (individual medley).”

Wando’s Nick Wukovits, who helped Wando swim to a second-place finish in the Class AAAA state meet, signed with Miami University. He captured a pair of gold medals — winning the 200-yard individual medley and the 100-yard breaststroke.

Academic Magnet’s Cooper Pitts signed with Virginia Tech after repeating as state champion in the 200-yard individual medley and the 100-yard breaststroke.

West Ashley pitcher Ryan McDonald signed to play baseball at West Virginia. McDonald is the sixth-ranked overall player in South Carolina and No. 145 nationally by Perfect Game. McDonald sat out his sophomore season with the Wildcats, but returned to the mound last season.

“Ryan is a really big right-handed pitcher with tremendous arm strength,” said West Virginia baseball coach Randy Mazey, the former head coach at Charleston Southern. ”We are looking forward to him developing and being a tremendous pitcher for us in the future.”

Wando’s Kate Harper signed to play golf at Virginia. Harper finished fifth at the state tournament this season. She was the 2015 Beth Daniel Junior Azalea Champion and runner-up at the Midwest Junior Championship. She had six top-10 finishes at AJGA competition this past year and four top-five finishes.

Harper is the No. 4-ranked player in the state.

“Kate is going to be a great fit for our program,” said Virginia women’s golf coach Kim Lewellen. “Kate has been highly competitive and proven herself in some of the nation’s top junior golf events.