ANDERSON -- When McDonald County High School Class of 2017 graduate and current Missouri Southern State junior Peyton Barton won the men's weight throw national championship at the NCAA Division II Track & Field Indoor Championships earlier this month, it may have had some coaches grabbing their maps to see just where McDonald County High School is located while wondering if there was more such talent to be harvested from the area where the school is located.
Many college coaches, though, already know where Anderson, Mo., is located, as well as the many communities -- like Barton's own Rocky Comfort -- that make up the McDonald County school district. The proof is in the number of colleges signing Mustangs and Lady Mustangs to national collegiate letters of intent.
On Wednesday, Feb. 15, four Mustangs signed to continue their careers on the collegiate level, and in May another ceremony will be held in Mustang Arena for more signings.
"Our coaches have done a tremendous job of getting our kids seen, getting their names out there and contacting other coaches," said McDonald County High School athletics director Bo Bergen. "It's evident by how many kids we have playing at the college level right now."
And in a variety of sports, too. In February, Jack Parnell signed to play football at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kan., while Blaine Ortiz signed to continue his wrestling career at Missouri Valley College in Marshall, Mo. Cross Dowd and Isaac Behm will remain teammates on the baseball diamond after both signed with Coffeyville Community College in Coffeyville, Kan.
Other MCHS grads have experienced success -- both past and present -- on the collegiate level in such sports as softball, golf, soccer, volleyball, basketball and cheerleading.
And it all starts with the attention and information generated by the MCHS coaches about their prospective college athletes.
"Over the last five years or so, we've put a big focus on that," said Bergen. "I talk about it with the coaches at our meeting every year about ways to do that. Social media is a big part of that. Huddle is a huge part of that. Those recruiting databases ... our coaches are all plugged into all of that, and they've done a tremendous job of taking that and running with it. It's shed a positive light on our school district, for sure, because of all the work they've done in getting kids seen.
Bergen said some commitments hadn't been solidified when the earlier ceremony was held, so a second ceremony has been scheduled for Wednesday, May 3, at Mustang Arena.
He said as many as six athletes could be signing their letters of intent on that day.