Ceres High senior Hannah Smith finalized her college plans this past week by choosing to continue her education and golf career in Pennsylvania.
Surrounded by family members and other supporters, Smith signed a national letter of intent with Alvernia University during a special ceremony on Wednesday inside her school's library.
"People have been congratulating me all over campus," Hannah said. "It's still hard to believe. I didn't expect to play golf in college. My major is nursing. That's my main priority. When I realized they had my major and I could play golf, I was really excited."
Hannah helped Ceres High continue its tradition of excellence in girls golf.
The Bulldogs advanced to the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs four times, captured one Western Athletic Conference Championship and posted a combined record of 37-9 in league play during Smith's four years on the team.
"She's one of the top three golfers this school has ever seen," said Randy Cerny, Ceres High's head coach from 2010-16. "Her competitive spirit is very strong. She has a great heart. She's a very special young lady."
Smith wrapped up her prep golf career with a ninth-place finish (93) at the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-IV Championships this past fall.
She tied for sixth (105) at the conference's year-end tournament.
She earned first-team all-WAC honors.
Hannah filled a major role in leading Ceres High to its seventh consecutive postseason berth.
The Bulldogs finished second in the WAC's overall standings.
Ceres High made history in 2014 by claiming its first-ever conference title. The Bulldogs won all 12 of their WAC dual matches. Ceres High placed first at the conference's mid-season and year-end events. The Bulldogs posted a team score of 513 on their way to a program-best runner-up finish at the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-IV Tournament. Ceres High took 14th overall (534) while competing at Masters for the first time. The Bulldogs were third at the prestigious Merced Tournament.
"She was part of that magical season when we won our first conference championship and took second at Divisionals," Cerny said.
Smith tried out for the Bulldogs' golf team after taking lessons in Ceres the summer before entering high school.
"Her mom called me before her freshman year and said she wanted to play golf," Cerny stated. "But hadn't played before. I referred her to (River Oaks golf pro) Greg Silva. He taught her how to play."
Brian and Kim, Hannah's parents, attended the majority of her matches.
"We got to watch her grow," Kim said. "I think it's amazing. She's had incredible support from Mr. Cerny and Mr. Silva."
"Every season, she got better," Cerny said.
Hannah visited Alvernia University in February.
"I got to meet everybody," she said. "The coach is very flexible with schedules. The way he runs his program is a lot like Cerny runs his. It's going to be fun."
Smith flashed a smile while posing for a picture with Cerny after her signing party.
"It's very special after seven seasons to top it off like this," said Cerny, who retired from coaching following Smith's final year with the Bulldogs. "I'm very proud of her. This is a perfect example of how important it is to have a plan for after high school. It's a success story."
"Nursing is something I've always wanted to do since I was little," Smith said. "I knew I wouldn't get the same opportunities here in California. It's hard to believe I'm going that far away. It took a lot of work to get there. I'm really excited."