Orange seniors return to school for celebration

ORANGE, Va. (CBS19 SPORTS) -- Graduation ceremonies were last weekend at Orange County High School. But seven seniors were back at the school on Wednesday afternoon -- to be celebrated for their future plans in college sports.

Five of them -- shot putter Jasmine Thompkins, jumper DeSante' Clark, and runners Hannah Snodgrass, Jarius Faulkner and Elijah Suggs -- were track athletes. They were joined by football player Jeremiah Lewis and field hockey player Mariely Aquin.

Suggs plans to continue his track career at Richard Bland in a few months. When he arrives, he'll become the first male member of his family to attend college.

"It's very special, because it just proves I can do things," Suggs said. "And the next generation of my family can see that they can do it too."

Aquin plans to play field hockey at Southern Virginia. That opportunity has been motivation for Aquin, as she works her way back from an injury suffered during her final season with the Hornets last fall.

"I just continued to push myself," Aquin said. "And prayed that I would be able to work hard and get back to where I was, or even stronger than where I was before."

Clark has been running track since sixth grade. She'll continue her career at Eastern University in Pennsylvania, where she expects to to the long jump and triple jump, and possibly run some hurdles.

"I consider track to be my second home. And I feel like without track I wouldn't know who I was," Clark said. "It's basically a blessing because I know a lot of people don't get the opportunity to continue to do what they love, and I'm just really grateful for it."

Snodgrass knew she wanted a future in track after qualifying for regionals in indoors as a sophomore. She'll be primarily a hurdler at Roanoke College, but also expects to run some relays and possibly do the high jump.

"The track coach at Roanoke has been very positive and encouraging with my next four years as well. And has pointed out a lot of potential in me that I haven't seen," Snodgrass said. "So it's really, I'm excited to get on the track as soon as I get there."

Thompkins will make the seven-and-a-half hour trek to Eastern Kentucky to continue her track career -- though she is looking forward to reconnecting with some family members who will only be about 90 minutes away from the school. She's also eager to see how much further she can push herself at the college level.

"I'm nervous. But I know that I'm definitely going to do a lot better and improve," Thompkins said. "And I'm excited to see how much I'll improve, and what I'll get to do at that level."

Faulkner has been running for the Hornets for the four years, and has spent the past two seasons as a captain at Orange. He picked Bridgewater over Mount Saint Mary's about three weeks ago.

"Honestly I've been looking forward for a long time. I've always dreamt of going to the collegiate level," Faulkner said. "Just to get to the next level, to the highest point."

Lewis will also head to Bridgewater to continue his football career, after choosing the Eagles over Emory and Henry and some out-of-state schools. Lewis says Bridgewater plans to use him as a pass rusher, either at defensive end or linebacker -- depending on how much size he adds in the college's weight program.

"Man, I'm not even going to lie. I dreamed about this stuff when I was younger, and I never thought it would happen, and I'm so happy that it's coming true," Lewis said.