Back in 2009, the University of California, Berkeley was making an impression on a future student-athlete without even knowing it.
George Monroe, who signed his national letter of intent to Cal on Monday for track and field, had his sights on his dream school for years.
“When I was a kid, they had the NCAA Football game on Xbox, and I would play as Cal every single time,” Monroe said. “They have been on my radar from early on. It is a dream come true.”
That dream started with DeSean Jackson, a 12-year NFL veteran who graced the cover of NCAA Football 09 in his Cal uniform. But Monroe made one of the biggest decisions of his life with more on his mind than Cal being his favorite video game football team.
“I was able to use track to get into a good academic school I would otherwise maybe not have the chance to get into,” Monroe said. “I was looking at Princeton, Davidson, Cal and Mizzou as my four main schools. So academics were definitely a major part of my decision.”
Cal is an academically rigorous school that accepts just 17% of applicants. Hickman track and field head coach Stewart Johnson was proud of his athlete’s accomplishment.
“People don’t realize California, Berkeley is a hard school to get into academically, but that speaks to George,” Johnson said. “He is a great student, and on top of that he is a great athlete. He is the best of both. I just couldn’t be more happy and proud. It’s going to be so awesome following him and his career.”
On the track, Monroe is a three-time all-state member who Johnson praised as the core of a team that finished fifth at state last year. On Sunday, Monroe finished first in the 200-meter dash and second in the 60-meter dash at the Mizzou High School Series championship meet.
“(Monroe) is very team-oriented, and he’s just grown exponentially since his freshman year (when he was) a scrawny fast kid,” Johnson said. “He got hurt, overcame an injury, and then last year just took off. That has led to where he is now, getting to go to California Berkeley.”
For Monroe, the thought of running track at Cal two years ago seemed improbable, as he focused on other sports such as football in his first few years at Hickman. Things changed last year when Monroe became one of the leaders on the track and field team.
“To be honest, I didn’t even take track that seriously until last year,” Monroe said. “I went from 150th in the state in the 100 meter to fifth in one season. After this past year I took it seriously and worked over the summer. I found some good coaching that helped a lot and I’m still improving.”
In Berkeley, Monroe will join new Cal track and field assistant coach Bobby Lockhart. Lockhart has coached four NCAA Individual Champions, along with helping Oklahoma State claim three national titles in 2009, 2010 and 2012 before coming to Cal ahead of the 2019-20 season.
“Cal has already improved their times a lot this season,” Monroe said. “(Lockhart) said around 85% of the guys on the team have improved their times, so the coaching knows what they’re doing. Pac-12 track is some of the best it gets, so the competition is something that drew me there, too.”
When Monroe continues his athletic career in the fall, so will eight other Hickman student-athletes who got the chance to sign their national letter of intents on Monday. Here are the other Kewpies athletes who signed:
- Ajia Vigil will attend St. Louis College of Pharmacy for cross country.
- Riley Kliethermes will attend Hannibal-LaGrange University for cross country.
- Declan Irelan will play lacrosse for Columbia College.
- Emma Meyer will attend Park University and play golf.
- Allison Keys will play volleyball for Triton College.
- Jevean Brown will play football at the University of Central Missouri.
- Talin Kemp will play football at University of Central Missouri.
- Felix Pippenger will play football at Missouri Baptist University.