CLINTON -- For some high schools, athletes signing Division I letters of intent come and go with great regularity.
For Hickman County High School, however, it's a terrific special occasion, and something two local stars hope becomes the norm for their hometown.
Tuesday afternoon in Falcon Gymnasium, a pep rally was held for the signings of Tyler Abernathy (to Murray State men's golf) and Gracie Lusk (to UT Martin softball), who both contend that it doesn't matter where you go to school -- just so long as you work for the next step.
"We just wanted to show all of the students that it is possible," Lusk said after the rally. "You don't have to go anywhere else. You can stay here and still get the same offers and appreciation that you do anywhere else."
Followed Abernathy: "If you're willing to put in the work, it can happen."
Abernathy and Lusk are Hickman County's first Division I signees since former star catcher Steven Bayko (Class of 2007) inked with Murray State baseball, and former hoops hero Ben Rushing landed with Eastern Kentucky in 2001.
"For seven years now, I've been around these two, and seen them grow as athletes and as people," noted Hickman County athletic director Jeff Boaz. "Their overall commitment and dedication to their sport and their school is second to none.
"To me, the most impressive part of this day is that they were able to achieve unbelievable success on the golf course and the softball field while still excelling at the highest level in the classroom. Gracie and Tyler are real student-athletes, and are proof that you can obtain your goals of playing at the next level, even at a small school."
Lusk was emotional after the signing, hugging her parents often while wiping tears from her face, then crying again as her coach, Lisa Britton, read off a long list of her accomplishments: a three-time All-Purchase player, a 2019 First Region All "A" champion, someone who hit .553 with eight home runs a year ago.
She had committed to Morehead State early before the program underwent coaching changes, then had to decide between the Skyhawks and Murray State before opting to stay closer to home for family and an ailing grandfather.
"I knew (Division I) was always a possibility if I worked hard for it," Lusk said. "But it was probably my eighth grade year when everything started clicking and I started progressing more in my softball career. That's when I knew."
From state tournament competition to notching a 33 on his ACT, Abernathy hasn't had too many challenges come his way just yet.
That'll change at the next level, however, as he'll learn what the transition from high school to college is really like.
"A lot of it will be just me becoming more consistent," Abernathy said. "Preparing myself for the golf courses, because they're at a lot higher level than what I'm playing right now.
"But I think a lot of it is going to be preparing for how life is going to hit me. I know life is going to be a lot different for me a year from now. I'll be on my own, and it's just going to be adjusting to school (that will be) as much of a key to my success as golf."