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The Depot Community Room almost wasn’t big enough Wednesday night to house the guests that came from two separate school districts. Although the people in the room may have had rival affiliations, on this night they joined in celebration of a huge accomplishment.
North Lamar senior Daniel Gibbons joined Jake Clark from Paris High in an event pretty amazing to a town like Paris. Both students were nominated and offered appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point. Both boys were also recruited to play baseball at the Academy.
Randy Nation opened up the ceremony by reading a little bit about the two young men and what it takes to get into West Point.
“Both young men were appointed to the academy on the basis of academics and leadership as well as being recruited for their talents in baseball,” Nation said. “Both these young men have been playing the sport since they could toss the ball.”
Daniel and Jake both had to submit grades, transcripts, scores, questionnaires and essays. Both students had to have at least six recommendation letters from faculty and community members. They had to go through a physical fitness assessment as well as a biography and personal information packet.
“It was a very lengthy process of paper work,” Nation told the crowded room.
Clark was invited to the Army Baseball Road Omaha Prospect Camp. Jake gave his verbal commitment to West Point baseball Coach Anthony DeCicco at the camp in August. Jake was interviewed at Congressman Ralph Hall’s office in November. The committee informed him that the nominations would be made in December and he received his nomination letter on Christmas Eve.
The summer before his junior year, Daniel attended baseball camps at the United States Naval Academy in June then the United State Military Academy in August. Scholarships were offered by each school, with the stipulation that he improve his grades. With the help of tutoring at the school and Daniel dedicating himself to his studies, he met the academics SAT/ACT and grade requirements. Gibbons then proudly verbally committed to the United States Military Academy in April 2013.
After receiving nominations from Congressman Ralph Hall and President Obama, Daniel received his appointment to West Point in November 2013.
“It’s very hard to get into West Point and even harder to be recruited as an athlete. We’re having this celebration today for the signing of their acceptance letter and letter of intent,” Randy said.
Both athletic directors took the podium to express their appreciation to both athletes for this amazing accomplishment. After the athletic directors both head coaches spoke as well. Paris High coach Bill Sikes spoke first and praised the hard work and dedication from Clark.
“Paris High School is a better place because of Jake,” Sikes told the crowd. “Not just because of his ball playing but because of everything.”
Coach Scott Igleheart also echoed the praises of Sikes.
“What a great day for the Gibbons family,” Igleheart said. “We, the North Lamar baseball program, are happy to share it with you.”
After the coaches spoke and before the signing, we got to hear from the two athletes themselves.
“It’s such a great honor,” Clark said. “I’m proud to represent Lamar County, Paris High School and Paris, Texas.”
“I’d like to think everyone that helped make this possible,” said Gibbons. ” This blows my mind. I didn’t think anything like this was possible.”
Both players thanked everyone for coming out and then got down to business as they both signed their acceptance letters in front of coaches, teammates, families and friends. Though they are rivals on the ball field, for one night, these two reminded a community that we’re all in this together. Both boys are already gearing up for their new life after high school.
“Go Army! Beat Navy!” That’s the phrase Jake Clark shouted as he left the podium. For a night, almost everyone in the room was cheering for Army.
By Greg Higgins, eParisExtra