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ROHNERT PARK — The mood was decidedly festive, but the word of the day was relief.

“It’s honestly a sigh of relief to finally sign my national letter of intent to go play tennis for the place I feel most comfortable with,” said Alec Wong, a senior at Rancho Cotate High who signed a letter of intent Wednesday to play tennis at Sonoma State University.

Wednesday was, of course, National Signing Day. Or, as most people call it, the first Wednesday in February.

(See a list of local athletes who signed a letter of intent.)

National signing day, the day when student-athletes sign letters of intent to enroll at a particular college, has become a spectacle in recent years — live coverage, media hordes, homemade promotional videos, the works.

It’s a day that in some corners of the nation has come to embody the commodification of the college student athlete experience. But thank goodness no one around here showed up on Wednesday in a Hummer or created their own music video to tell us they are taking their talents to Tallahassee.

Here, it was balloons and loud music, families wearing mascot sweatshirts and taking photos.

In a word, great.

And a relief.

Rancho’s Chris Taylor-Yamanoha, the most sought after football prospect in the Empire, made good on the verbal commitment to Louisville that he announced last spring. But even in that case, it felt good to put ink to paper.

“I committed back in May last year, but then some schools kept reaching out,” the 6-foot-2 wide receiver and cornerback said.

He looked at the University of Washington but then made an official visit to Louisville in December. Done.

“When I went for my official, that really sealed everything,” he said.

Taylor-Yamanoha was born in Louisville and spent the first seven years of his life there. It was a huge draw to be near family that has remained in the area, he said.

Maria Carrillo soccer star Maddy Gonzalez, The Press Democrat’s Player of the Year three years running, verbally committed to Santa Clara University at the beginning of sophomore year. But even that seeming surety can be tinged with unease because of the rules on how coaches and prospective players can communicate.

One could easily fall into questions: Do they still want me? Have they locked up someone better at my position? Will they take a slice of my financial offer?

It’s heady stuff for a high schooler. So to make it real Wednesday was a load off for many.

“It’s been a long time coming,” Gonzalez said. “It’ll be a lot less stressful. I finally did it — the moment.”

“The recruiting process has been a blast but it can be really stressful at times,” said Rancho senior Brandon Boccaleoni, who signed on to play football at Sacramento State.

“One day you feel like you have everything in the world and it’s the most exciting process ever, but the next day things are completely different.”

Analy High School soccer standout Sami Zepponi has had her heart set on Notre Dame since forever. She eyed other campuses, but the school where her dad went to law school had her heart. “Soccer is such a big part of my life, and growing up on a team, I’m just kind of used to that security of a team with me,” she said.

“It’s amazing, being able to play in college,” she said.

So putting pen to paper on Wednesday — it’s something that makes a dream a bit closer to reality.

“I’ve been looking forward to that, for oh god, forever,” she said.

Zepponi and Gonzalez, as well as about 12 other soccer players, were all slated to sign their letters of intent Wednesday night at an event hosted by their club, Santa Rosa United. It’s become an annual event for the club to host a get-together at which players make solid their, in many cases, long-held plans.

Santa Rosa’s Melanie Mathewson chose Lesley University in Boston, a school that promised both academics and a shot at playing soccer.

“I get pretty good grades at school,” she said. “My academics could get me into a better school but I couldn’t play at a bigger school.”

Playing ball was a must for Rancho’s Katie Rohrer who signed on to play softball at San Francisco State.

“Playing in college was my dream all from the start,” she said. “Without playing in college I don’t think my life would be the same.”

Rancho’s Vickie Espinoza, who finished second in the state last year in wrestling, and signed with Oklahoma State University on Wednesday, said she’s not done yet.

“I fell in love with the sport and just want to keep doing it for as long as I can,” she said.

With tweets and posts and rankings and bragging bits clogging my computer screen all day Wednesday, a kid wanting to keep participating in the sport they love is about as good as it gets. No Hummer needed.

You can reach staff columnist Kerry Benefield at 526-8671 or kerry.benefield@pressdemocrat.com, on Twitter @benefield and on Instagram at kerry.benefield. Podcasting on iTunes “Overtime with Kerry Benefield.”

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