By Steve Williams
There was a lot of love and pride in the Upper Campus Commons area at Berean Christian School last Wednesday afternoon.
And a lot of Lady Eagles in the building, too.
Even Carol Zachary Mitchell, a former Gibbs High and Carson-Newman Lady Eagle, was in attendance.
Gracie Palmer, a Berean Christian School senior who plays softball for Gibbs in the TSSAA co-op program because Berean does not have a softball program, was signing a college scholarship with Lincoln Memorial University’s softball program.
Palmer, however, still has her senior softball season to play next spring at Gibbs before she heads to Harrogate and LMU for her freshman year in 2022-23.
Gracie had to feel a special love with teammates from Berean and Gibbs at the signing.
“I love having two families,” she said. “I love my Gibbs people.”
Palmer played her freshman season at Gibbs before the TSSAA changed the co-op rule to private to private school and public to public school only. Because she had already played at Gibbs, Gracie was “grandfathered” in for the remainder of her prep career.
“I’ve loved playing for Coach Mitchell and it’s a good program,” said Palmer.
Gracie’s signing also was special for the Palmer family and her dad, Eric Palmer, who is the athletic director and girls’ basketball coach at Berean Christian. In addition to softball, Gracie also has played basketball and had the highest scoring average (28 points per game) in the state in Division II last season.
“Signing Days are very exciting days for our players,” said Eric Palmer. “Having your child commit to play at the next level is a coach’s dream. Seeing the investment over the years and all the hard work paying off for my daughter Gracie is an incredibly proud moment for Liz and I as parents. We could not be prouder of her performance on and off the field.”
Eric said this is a “huge impact” for Berean as well.
“Being such a small school, we have to share our athletes with our other programs to help make those programs successful. Gracie’s success as a multi-sport athlete raises the standard for what is achievable for all student-athletes.”
Prior to the signing, Eric Palmer quoted Bible verse Matthew 5:16. “That was a verse that we challenged our basketball team with last year,” he said. “To live your life in such a way to praise God.”
Gracie’s softball teams at Gibbs finished third in the state last season and fifth in 2019. In 2021, she was selected to the All-District team, the District Tournament MVP and voted All-PrepXtra.
“Gracie is a fantastic young lady,” said Coach Mitchell, who is one of the most successful high school coaches in the nation. “She fit right in with the girls and has played an important role in our success as a program and I look forward to having her for a final year and hopefully going up to see her again at LMU, where she can go and make a difference.”
Palmer played centerfield last season.
“She really can play anywhere,” said Mitchell. “It just ended up last year that was a good place for us to have her. But she could end up in the infield or stay in the outfield this coming season.”
Palmer batted in the middle of the lineup. “She’s got a lot of power,” said Mitchell.
As for college, “LMU just felt like the right fit,” said Gracie, “and I love Coach (Ritchie) Richardson. He’s a great coach.”
If the Lady Railsplitters were the Lady Eagles, it would be perfect.
For many, National Signing Day is the culmination of a long recruiting journey!
LOCAL COLLEGE SIGNEES
(Local high school student-athletes who signed on the first day of the Early Signing Period or will be signing Nov. 10 through Nov. 17 for enrollment in the Class of 2022-23)
Sydney Branson, Tennessee Tech, golf
Elijah Bredwood, LMU, basketball
Alayna Corbitt, Carson-Newman, soccer
Gracie Palmer, LMU, softball
Emma Bethel, Eastern Kentucky, softball
Jackson Hughey, Union University, golf
Ben Johnston, Carson-Newman, golf
Walker Strange, Lipscomb University, baseball
Kaleb Wilson, West Virginia, golf
Mackenzie Babb, Cumberland University (KY), basketball
Lauren Brakovec, Anderson University, softball
Autumn Caywood, Johnson University, softball
Avery Flatford, Tennessee Tech, softball
Sam Lefler, Wingate University, lacrosse
Sarah Livingston, Tennessee Tech, softball
Emily Musco, ETSU, softball
Hannah Pfeifer, UT-Chattanooga, softball
Keeleigh Rogers, Carson-Newman, basketball
Ashlyn Sheridan, Anderson University, basketball
Madilyn Stark, Motlow State, soccer
Avery Strickland, West Virginia, basketball
Eryn Williams, Georgia, gymnastics
Ella Brooks, Mars Hill University, softball
Ella Malone, Brevard College, softball
Ali Morris, Western Carolina University, volleyball
McKenna Rook, Milligan University, soccer
Alee Hyatt, Roane State, volleyball
Claire Palya, UT-Chattanooga, soccer
Hanna Bagoski, Roane State, softball
Anna Kate Reichter, Carson-Newman, softball
BJ Edwards, Tennessee, basketball
Christopher Grill, Union University, soccer
Gráinne McGrath, Furman, volleyball
Kelsey Miller, Milligan, soccer
Morgan Phillips, Oglethorpe University, volleyball
Ceci Pumariega, Anderson University. soccer
Jodie Spangler, Roane State, golf
Logan Poteet, Vanderbilt, baseball
Abby Spradlin, ETSU, softball
Terryauna Griffin, Lander University, basketball
April Chism, George Washington University, rowing
Simon Fillers, LMU, cross country / track
Avery Jolley, Winthrop, volleyball
Max Oliver, Maryville College, baseball
Matthew Schultz, Elmira College (NY), baseball
Compiled by Steve Williams