Different sports, different directions, different starts

Pat Donahue/Times-EnterpriseBen Sanders, Isabella Grayson and Andrew Cooper signed national letters of intent Wednesday morning as the signing period opened. Sanders will play golf at ABAC, Grayson will diver at Davidson College and Cooper will play tennis at University of Mary Washington.

THOMASVILLE — With three athletes signing in three different sports, they still drew the same loud cheers and applause at the Beverly Athletic Center on Wednesday morning.

Brookwood School seniors Isabella Grayson, Andrew Cooper and Ben Sanders signed their national letters of intent on the first day of the February signing period in front of dozens of family, friends and classmates.

“It is a special moment,” said Brookwood athletic director Shane Boggs. “I’m proud of each of these student-athletes. This is really a testament to not only how hard they’ve worked in their particular sport but also how they’ve done in the classroom. That helped create these opportunities.”

Grayson will go to Davidson College to continue her diving career. She started in gymnastics but her next-door neighbor, a former college diver, convinced her to give that sport a try.

“She said I do flips and I could do pretty well at diving,” Grayson said. “And I loved it ever since.”

Grayson has been diving for six years and trains at Moultrie’s Moss Farms, which has produced some of the nation’s most acclaimed divers.

To Grayson, Davidson was a perfect match for her.

“I absolutely love diving, but something that is very important to me is academics. Davidson is just the best of both worlds,” she said. “I can get a great education and I can still do what I love while I’m there.”

Cooper already had a connection to the University of Mary Washington, where he will play tennis. His sister Rachel plays tennis at UWM.

“I looked at her college, and I really fell in love with it,” Andrew said. "She has had a great experience there.”

Cooper has trained on the clay courts of Glen Arven Country Club, noted as being some of the best around.  

Cooper has been playing tennis since he was 8 and playing it competitively since he was 10. 

“I like the competitive nature of it,” he said. “I like pushing myself to play against better players.”

Playing so much on clay courts has him enjoying being on the baseline. He wants to get better at volleys.

He draws inspiration from Rafael Nadal, his favorite player. 

"I really love my lefty forehand. I put a lot of spin on it,” Cooper said. “(Nadal) hits a big lefty forehand. I model my strategy after him.”

Sanders, who is headed to Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College to play golf, got his start by following his brother’s footsteps.

"My brother started playing golf when he was in middle school, and I thought I’d just tag along,” he said. “It just hit me and I liked it.”

Hitting a couple buckets of balls on the range also is a good stress reliever, Sanders acknowledged. 

“It really helps,” he said. 

Going to school in Tifton also keeps him close to family.

"I’m not much of a big city kind of person,” he said. 

Of the courses he played, his favorite so far has been the Slammer and Squire at the World Golf Village in St. Augustine, Florida.

“That was a really fun course,” Sanders said.

Editor Pat Donahue can be reached at (229) 226-2400 ext. 1806.

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