It was a busy day at South Aiken High School as two senior athletes participated in ceremonies celebrating their signing letters of intent to continue their athletic careers in college.

Both Sarah Johnson and Alaina Gay were surrounded by family and friends as they put pen to paper. Johnson affirmed a commitment to The Citadel, where she’ll run for the track & field team while Gay officially will join Anderson University, where she figures to be a key new addition to the women’s soccer team.

Johnson, who’s a sprinter for the Thoroughbreds track team, decided on joining The Citadel a little later in the recruiting process than what might be considered the norm. She originally had an interest in attending the Naval Academy, but some of her information didn’t arrive in time for her admission. She was happy to have The Citadel as another option.

“I prayed about the decision,” Johnson said. “I got a feel for The Citadel and felt like that’s where I should go.”

What was most appealing to Johnson about the military institution was the structure it provides. She said she hasn’t always had strong guidelines to work inside of and relishes the chance to be a part of a community that will demand she lives a structured lifestyle.

“I enjoy everybody being in the same uniform and having that structure and teamwork,” Johnson said of going to the college that’s notorious for being tough on its first-year entrants and female students. “It’s going to be difficult, especially for females, but I’m up for the challenge.”

Johnson said there was another big reason that she chose to enroll at The Citadel over other potential colleges, such as Winthrop or South Carolina. That’s the connections The Citadel offers its graduates, especially it’s Criminal Justice grads, the major Johnson said she’s planning to pursue.

“They have connections to the FBI because that is where I want to work,” said Johnson, who has some lofty goals for herself as a member of the Bulldogs’ track team. “I want to make history at The Citadel. I want to be known as the fastest woman at The Citadel and change the face of the program.”

At South Aiken, Johnson’s a staple running the 100, 200 and 400 dash as well as participating on the relay teams. She said at The Citadel, she’ll likely focus on running the 400, which she finished third in the state last year, as well as third in the Taco Bell Classic, a national meet.

Gay has been a key part of some very good girls’ soccer teams at South Aiken, which has established itself as one of the top tier programs in South Carolina. At Anderson, that won’t be the case.

The Trojans are a women’s soccer team in transition, and Gay is one of 11 freshmen joining the squad next season. That could afford the center midfielder the chance to play right off the bat.

“It’s a good fit for her,” Gay’s current coach David Mihoulides said of her joining Anderson. “She’s got a good attitude and work ethic and will do whatever you ask of her.”

“It’s a good opportunity for me,” Gay said of joining Anderson, which she chose over Columbia College among some other interested schools. “Anderson fit what I wanted the most. It’s a Christian school, it’s small, it’s pretty and its not too far from home. All together, it made the best fit.”

Although she’ll play for the soccer team, Gay said academics will come first at Anderson. The student who got straight A’s in the last grading period at South Aiken said she plans to pursue a Business degree, and was impressed with the Business program at Anderson. While getting good grades and her degree are Gay’s primary concern, she has some other goals she’d like to achieve at Anderson.

“I want to have friendships that last forever,” said Gay, who Mihoulides described as having a great personality and being the best communicator on his team. “I want to be able to look back and say I loved playing soccer at Anderson.”

Noah Feit is the sports editor for the Aiken Standard and has been a professional journalist for more than a dozen years after graduating from Syracuse University.