Turns out Julia Petree and Torie Vaught have been planning this for a long, long time.
The two Maryville High School seniors and preschool running buddies both signed National Letters of Intent on Tuesday to continue with their respective sports at the next level.
Petree, a state champion sprinter, signed to further her track and field career at the University of Tennessee this fall. There, the Blount Today Female Athlete of the Year will reunite with former Maryville teammates Ellen Wortham and Ally Colvin. The trio, along with former Lady Rebel Ashley Bridenbaugh, was part of a state-record 4x400-meter relay Petree’s freshman season at Maryville.
“It does feel good” to have the recruiting process finally over with, Petree said.
Vaught, a terrifically athletic, 6-foot post player, signed scholarship papers to play basketball at Belmont University in Nashville next season. As the district’s most valuable player season a year ago, the All-State forward led the Lady Rebels to within a game of the state tournament during a 29-win campaign.
A knee injury slowed the two-time Blount County Player of the Year this past postseason, but she’s fully recovered and ready go, Vaught said.
Petree and Vaught were first introduced to each other, quickly becoming fast friends, when their parents enrolled them in the same daycare as 3-year-olds. By their sophomore seasons at Maryville, both had already become headline athletes.
Petree, with 15 All-State selections already on her resume, won the 400 meters at the Class AAA state meet two years ago. That same season, the future Lady Vol did the unprecedented, winning the 100, 200, 400 and 800 at the Blount County Track and Field Championships, a rare sprint/distance double that may never be duplicated.
Family and friends gave Petree a big sendoff on Tuesday at the high school. The Maryville champion did her part, attending the ceremony in a bright orange summer dress with a white power-T emblazoned across the front.
“I’ve been waiting to sign for a long, long time,” Petree said. “I said, ‘I’m going to go for the whole shebang.”
Vaught, used sparingly her freshman season at Maryville, became a force in 4AAA basketball as a sophomore, thanks, in no small part, to an impressive, off-season workout regimen. Her averages from a year ago - 14 points, eight rebounds per game - are more reflective of the mobile jump-shooter the Bruins are getting.
Having to sit and rest the knee for college the last month of this season was frustrating, Vaught said.
“It was really hard to see my teammates out there, and it looked like I could help them at some point, and I wasn’t able to,” she said.
Making the waiting game for college doubly tough was the knowledge this past season was Maryville coach Kim Bledsoe’s last. The veteran coach called it a career with the close of the 2010-11 season. A Blount County Hall of Fame inductee, Bledsoe taught the Lady Rebels so much more than basketball, Vaught said.
“She was an excellent coach and an excellent lady,” Vaught said. “She allowed me to become a better woman. She helped us become young ladies.”