By John R. Schirmer
Nashville High School seniors Ellen Spigner and Garrett Willard signed national letters-of-intent Wednesday, Nov. 10, to play college sports at Arkansas Tech In Russellville.
Spigner will play golf for the Golden Suns. Willard will play baseball with the Wonder Boys.
They signed their NCAA letters at the NHS cafeteria as family and teammates looked on.
Athletic Director James “Bunch” Nichols introduced Spigner and Willard, saying that signing events mark “my favorite day. Two of our own are going on to compete at the next level.”
For the 36 years that Nichols has been in the Scrapper athletic program, “Ellen Spigner is the best woman golfer we’ve had at Nashville. I’ve watched her grow up. I’ve known Steve and Christi a long time. She’s been raised the right way. This is a great day to be a Scrapper.”
Willard “probably had a baseball in his hand when they brought him home from the hospital,” Nichols said. “He’s a model of doing things right. His family is closely knit. He’ll get to play for one of our own, Coach [Michael] Milum at Arkansas Tech.” Millum, an assistant coach with the Wonder Boys, was a member of the 2007 state championship Scrapper team.
Signing day tradition continued as Nichols gave Spigner and Willard special pen sets with “Once a Scrapper” on the case and “Always a Scrapper on the pen.
Coach Aaron Worthen talked about Spigner’s golf career after her signing. “I want to thank Christi and Steve for raising a great daughter. She’s the best female golfer I’ve had. Her God-given ability is unbelievable. Her mo-
tivation comes from her parents. Having the ability and doing something with it is very rare.”
Spigner competed in 48 matches as a Scrapperette, including regular
season, state and overall. “She was the Medalist in 40 of them. Her team won state in 2018 and was the runner-up three years. They won four conference championships. The total team record was 38-5-1” in four years.
Spigner’s stroke average was 74.2, Worthen said.
Worthen said Spigner “loves her family and wants to be close to home. She had opportunities at D-1 schools and had out-of-state offers. After her ninth grade season, she went to tour Arkansas Tech.”
The Golden Suns “are ranked nationally every year. They were seventh overall last year in the national tournament. Ellen will be ready to compete from Day 1. I want to see a national championship ring for her,” Worthen said.
“I’m thrilled that you’re going to be a Golden Sun, and I’m happy to have had you here as a Scrapperette.”
Spigner said she chose Tech because “it’s the first school that showed interest. I did a lot of research on them and saw how well they did.” She plans to major in agricultural business.
Coach Kyle Slayton said he is “excited for both of you,” referring to Spigner and Willard. “Russellville is a great place. They have good golf and baseball.”
Slayton said he and the Willards “have been together a long time” with sons Chris and Garrett both playing for him. “Mike and Cindy do a bunch for our baseball team. Cindy has been my Scrapper Mom since Chris was in 10th grade. Mike statted very game. They’re a huge part of Scrapper baseball.”
Slayton said Garrett “is a little ahead of the game. His brother played at that level” at Ouachita Baptist.
“College-level is a job, seven days a week, with 6 a.m. weight room, classes all day, practice. We try to get them ready for it,” Slayton said.
“Garrett has been with me since he was 10 years old. I figure he’s played 250-plus games since he was a 10-year-old. That’s special,” Slayton said. “I probably won’t ever coach another kid this many games, including my own.”
The Scrappers won state when Willard was a ninth grader. Most of his sophomore season was canceled when schools nationwide closed because of Covid-19. Willard pitched 66 innings last year and batted .300, according to Slayton. “I expect him to kind of be our captain” for the upcoming season.
Willard said he chose Arkansas Tech “because it really felt like home when I go there. Coach [Dave] Dawson and Coach Milum made me feel really welcome when I went on my visit, and Coach Milum is a past Scrapper that I have known for a long time and spent time with during summer ball.” Willard plans to major in business.