Alexa Porpaczy signs her official scholarship agreement with the University of Arizona last week. (Contributed photo)

Semiahmoo Secondary high-jumper heading to Arizona

South Surrey’s Alexa Porpaczy signs NCAA athletic scholarship

After spending the better part of two years stressing over post-secondary athletic options – talking to coaches, researching schools, making official visits – Alexa Porpaczy’s future, in the end, came into focus in just a matter of weeks.

Last week, the Grade 12 Semiahmoo Secondary high-jumper – who is among the best in the country for her age – signed an official scholarship agreement with the University of Arizona, an NCAA Div. 1 program in Tucson, Ariz. She signed her name on the dotted line just a week after making an official visit to the school, and less than two weeks after a face-to-face breakfast meeting in Bellingham with Matthew McGee, one of the program’s coaches.

“The process had been so long and gruelling, and then just in one snap, it was over,” Porpaczy told Peace Arch News earlier this week.

“It was pretty hard, going through the process, because NCAA recruiting is not exactly an easy thing to go through – there’s a lot of challenges, rules, that kind of stuff. But I’m really happy to come out of it how I did.”

• RELATED: South Surrey high-jumper wins gold at Mt. SAC Relays

Porpaczy – a multiple-time high-jump champ at BC High School Track and Field Championships – said she started receiving interest from NCAA schools in the first week of Grade 11, and interest continued through that year, as well as her current school year.

In the end, she narrowed her choices down to three – Arizona, the University of Washington and the Ivy League’s University of Pennsylvania. She had options north of the border, too, she added – including UBC, which she visited in Grade 11.

And while an NCAA scholarship can be worn as something of a badge of honour – competition for spots on those squads is incredibly stiff – Porpaczy told PAN that she didn’t have a USA-or-bust mentality when it came to choosing a school.

Quite the opposite, in fact.

“The NCAA had been my goal, but I decided I would only go if I could find a better opportunity than what I could get in Canada, which is hard because Canadian schools offer a lot,” she explained.

“I’ve always loved UBC, and also loved the idea of going back east, in Canada. I had a pretty narrow set of options (for NCAA schools), only because I had pretty high standards going in.”

She made four official NCAA visits, and in the end chose Arizona – in part because she “fell in love” with the campus, and also because the coaching staff’s ideas jived with her own.

“They focus more on helping their athletes do their best, rather than worrying about their program doing its best,” she said. “They favour their athletes going off (to compete) on national teams, and things like that. They put their athletes (first), and I think that’s really important.”

After first being contacted by Arizona in December, Porpaczy said communication eventually tapered off, and it was only when she came close to making a decision that she took the initiative to reconnect.

“I figured I should reach back out and see if their offer still stood.”

After that came the whirlwind few weeks of visits and discussions before making the decision official.

Porpaczy made the trip to Arizona alone – as she did on her three other official visits – which, she said, helped her get a feel for what it will be like living a few thousand miles from home, in an entirely new country.

“I got to experience what it would be like there on my own, which I thought was pretty cool,” she said. “I think that nerves come naturally with this kind of thing, but I’ve always been really independent, and I always knew I’d be (OK) with moving away from home when the time came.”

She expects the Arizona weather will also take some of the sting out of any homesickness she may feel next fall, too.

“With high jump, I’ve always performed better when it’s been warmer out, so I think this will be really good for me,” she said.

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