COLLEGE BOUND: Carroll County college signees include (from left): Lauren Cox, softball at Bellarmine University; Cassidy Buchanan, Hunt Seat Equestrian at Midway University; Kay Gaddis, softball at Berea College; Haley Austin, softball at Midway; and Dane Lacefield, Esports at Cincinnati Christian University. (Staff photo by Mark Campbell)
COLLEGE BOUND: Carroll County college signees include (from left): Lauren Cox, softball at Bellarmine University; Cassidy Buchanan, Hunt Seat Equestrian at Midway University; Kay Gaddis, softball at Berea College; Haley Austin, softball at Midway; and Dane Lacefield, Esports at Cincinnati Christian University. (Staff photo by Mark Campbell)

Carroll County High School recently held its annual college signing day — the day when Panther athletes who plan to compete at the next level announce their college choices — with five seniors and their family and friends on hand for the ceremony.

The group included a pair of softball players, a track athlete and two students in the somewhat non-traditional pursuits of equestrian and Esports.

Dane Lacefield

Dane Lacefield will major in sports business management at Cincinnati Christian University and compete for the school’s electronic sports team.

Lacefield has played Esports for several years, becoming proficient in several games including playing for one of the top teams in the world in NBA2K. Lacefield currently plays in tournaments just about every weekend against opponents from around the world.

Cincinnati Christian fields teams in NBA2K as well as Overwatch, Fortnight, League of Legends, Rocket League, Madden football, Smash Bros and FIFA19 and offers scholarships ranging up to full tuition to some of the gamers who compete on the university’s behalf.

Lacefield, who has also played football, baseball and baseball at Carroll County, will receive one of those partial scholarships.

“I never imagined that something I just loved to do would be able to pay for my college,” Lacefield said of his $11,500-per-year scholarship to Cincinnati Christian.

Cassidy Buchanan

Cassidy Buchanan will major in equine management at Midway University and compete on the school’s Hunt Seat Equestrian team.

Since Carroll County does not field an equestrian team, Buchanan has pursued the sport on her own with the support of her parents and the owners and staff at the Zubrod, Biggins and Reiser stables. In fact, she’s been involved with horses since age two and managed her own family’s stables since age 12. She has worked and trained at several stables and served as a co-op employee at the Reiser Stables in Simpsonville, Kentucky, during high school.

A Top 20 Senior and National Honor Society member, Buchanan has won numerous championships through 4-H and the American Saddlebred Association as well as competitions at county fairs and equestrian events for saddlebreds, Arabians and miniature horses.

Buchanan’s scholarships to Midway — both academic and to ride Hunt Seat — total $48,000 over the four years.

Haley Austin

Haley Austin will play softball at Midway University where she plans to major in business.

Carroll softball head coach Chelsea Zink has coach Austin for five years and described her as an “huge asset” to the program and a leader whose positive attitude has paid off on the field and rubbed off on her teammates. “We’re really going to miss her,” she said.

Kay Gaddis will play softball at Berea College where she plans to major in psychology.

Zink, who has also coached Gaddis for five years, described her as “quiet but still shows leadership skills” and the type of player who works hard both off and on the field and she can’t wait to see what she can accomplish at the next level.

Lauren Cox

Lauren Cox will run track and field at Bellarmine University where she plans to major in physical therapy.

“I just want to go ahead and say on record that this women has been a gem to me,” Carroll track coach Ryan Laswell said of Cox. “You all have known her a lot longer than I have but Lauren’s professionalism and her hard work both on and off the track field has been tremendous ... academically she’s above a 4.0 student, on the track she is a leader to everybody. I am so excited for this woman because she is definitely deserving of this moment.”