FAIRFIELD — After six years in school together, a pair of Armijo High student-athletes inked letters of intent to their respective colleges Tuesday afternoon in the school library.
Melaya Gaines, a star forward for the girls basketball team that has won the last three Monticello Empire League championships, signed with Cal State San Marcos.
Running back Jairon Gacosta, a classmate of Gaines’ since seventh grade, inked with Dakota State University of Madison, S.D.
“I’m nervous, I’m excited, it’s just, I don’t know really how to feel,” Gaines said after putting pen to paper. “I’m like really anxious just to get out there and do my thing. So I’m really excited.”
Gacosta was just as enthused and repeatedly expressed his gratitude to his teammates and friends who had supported him throughout his football career at Armijo.
For Gaines, the recruiting process began last summer when a San Marcos assistant coach saw her playing AAU basketball in Oregon.
“So they came to the second game that we had played out there in Oregon and she brought the main coach and they saw me from there,” Gaines said.
After a visit to the San Diego-area campus, the decision was pretty easy, she added.
“It was awesome. Being out there in San Diego, it was just palm trees, a nice cool breeze and the sunshine and the school is really great, too,” Gaines said. “The campus seems cool, so I really felt comfortable there.”
San Marcos beat out San Francisco State, Cal State East Bay, Long Beach State and the University of Maine.
“I met the teammates. It was cool actually getting a chance to meet them,” Gaines said.
The school also had the right academic stuff for her.
“They have a good psychology program at the school,” she said. “I want to be a psychologist, I want to major in that, so that’s another thing that caught my attention there.”
Gacosta said it was the town of Madison, S.D., that won him over.
About 50 miles northwest of Sioux Falls, the state’s largest city, Gacosta said he simply fell in love with Madison – even in the middle of the frigid South Dakota winter.
“There’s no crime. Everybody was really friendly and laid back,” he said of his Jan. 25 visit. “I went to the grocery store while I was out there and people left their cars on while they went into the grocery store.”
After talking with current players, Gacosta said the weather shouldn’t be a factor as far as football goes.
“It was cold, but I talked with a lot of players during the season (and) as long as you covered up, you’re just fine,” he said.
The close-knit football program also made the decision easy.
“The coaches were really close knit and everybody was like a family,” he said. “They had players talk to you and they brought you all over the place.”
Both Gaines and Gacosta thanked family, friends and coaches before crossing pens in a mock swordfighting gesture and signing their letters.
“It’s meant a lot,” Gaines said of her support system, crediting her teammates, mom and uncle. “If it wasn’t for them I don’t know where I’d be at.”
It was the same for Gacosta, whose supporters included much of the boys basketball team, many of whom he played hoops with before switching to football.
“We grew up playing basketball and I was sort of the one that sort of left basketball for football – a lot of them are on the playoff team now,” he said.
Reach Mike Corpos at 427-6979 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/mcorposdr.