A year ago at this time, Bellingham's Joe Charbonneau could hardly be considered an NCAA Division I running prospect.
Then a junior, Charbonneau was coming off a cross country season in which he didn't even qualify for the Class 2A State Championships, after placing 35th at the 2A Northwest District meet.
But here he sits, one year later and just over 24 hours after signing a National Letter of Intent accepting a scholarship offer to run for Seattle University.
Make no doubt about it, Charbonneau made himself into a D-I prospect.
"I'd definitely say things started to change when I started doing all of the work during the offseason, and not just some of it," Charbonneau said in a phone interview. "I started working harder at running, and not just arbitrarily working hard. I really committed to the sport. Rather than just working hard and eating right during the season, I realized that I needed to do that all the time. It's a year-round commitment to be a Division I runner."
Charbonneau was rewarded for making that commitment, as he signed late Wednesday, Feb. 6.
His signing gave Whatcom County four Division I-bound senior distance runners so far this year, and more are sure to follow. Also Wednesday, Squalicum's Brittany Gappa (Boston University) and Patrick Gibson (Stanford) and Blaine's Tom Bradley (University of San Francisco) signed their Letters of Intent.
"I think a lot of guys in the conference really figured out how to be committed to this sport year-round, and that's shown by this incredible senior class," Charbonneau said.
Charbonneau helped make that class even stronger last fall, as he not only qualified for the state cross country meet as a senior, but he placed fifth in Pasco with a time of 15 minutes, 40.4 seconds and helped coach Bill McClement's Red Raiders place second as a team.
That definitely opened some eyes from college recruiters.
Charbonneau, who will run cross country, indoor and outdoor track and plans to enter the business school, said he chose Seattle U over Kansas State and the University of Washington.
"I have known their coaches Uli and Trisha Steidl, and I know that I can trust them," Charbonneau said. "I know that Coach McClement's son (Matthew McClement) went there. ... He's a redshirt senior there, so unfortunately, he will be gone next year when I get there, but he was so helpful through the whole season. He gave me the raw facts about the school and everything. ... They also, basically, gave me an offer that many other schools couldn't match."
Though Charbonneau definitely burst onto the scene this year, he was no stranger to Trisha Steidl. Charbonneau said he worked with the Redhawks' coach the last couple of years at the White Pass cross country camp.
"I talked to her a lot at that camp, and I was one of the faster kids there," Charbonneau said. "She definitely got to know me there. ... She is really friendly and really loyal. She's very straight up. She's not going to mask anything. She is blunt - polite, but blunt. She'll tell you when you're doing a good job, but she'll also tell you when you need to work harder."
Because of that, the Steidls have Seattle U on the rise.
Last fall, the men placed third at the Western Athletic Conference Cross Country Championships and 16th at the NCAA West Regional and "nearly had a couple of individual make it to nationals," Charbonneau said.
"I'm excited about the direction she's got the program going, and I want to be a part of that," he said.
Reach David Rasbach at email@example.com or 360-715-2286.
Here is a look at the Whatcom County high school seniors who either have signed or are planning to sign National Letters of Intent to be student athletes in college:
Student athlete High school Sport College
Rachel Albert Sehome Basketball Western Washington
Bo Banner Sehome Football Central Washington
Kelli Bannerman Ferndale Soccer Saint Martin's
Brooke Bonsen Lynden Softball Bellevue Community College
Tom Bradley Blaine Cross Country San Francisco
Brooke Branigan Bellingham Golf Western Washington
Jeremy Brockmann Meridian Baseball Centralia College
Aaron Burke Bellingham Baseball Oregon Tech
Amy Butcher Meridian Softball Wenatchee Valley College
Joe Charbonneau Bellingham Cross Country Seattle University
Alex Check Bellingham Baseball Bellevue College
Luke Christianson Lynden Baseball Lower Columbia College
Marcus Fakkema Lynden Lacrosse University of Great Falls
Gina Flint Squalicum Track Washington
Brittany Gappa Squalicum Cross Country Boston University
Patrick Gibson Squalicum Cross Country Stanford
Daniel Goebel Sehome Baseball Westmont College
Maddi Hommes Lynden Volleyball Bellevue College
Devon Kollmyer Lynden Soccer Simon Fraser
Tyler Knutsen Sehome Baseball Hawaii-Hilo
Josh Kraght Lynden Football Portland State
Bridget Kruck Lynden Christian Softball Mesa (Ariz.) Community College
Matt Meyer Lynden Football Washington State
Caleb Newman Lynden Football Army
Tanner Olson Lynden Baseball Lower Columbia College
Audrey Orem Bellingham Golf Western Washington
Palmer Sandel Blaine Football Western Oregon
Dak Shagren Lynden Basketball Northwest University
Rachel Short-Miller Bellingham Soccer Hesston (Kan.) College
Allie Spencer Meridian Soccer Treasure Valley Community College
Austyn Sprague Ferndale Baseball Everett Community College
Kayla Tiemersma Lynden Christian Basketball Whatcom Community College
Thomas Vazorka Bellingham Football Idaho State
Zach Vis Lynden Football Montana
Emily Visser Lynden Christian Cross Country Dordt College
Ryan Wallen Blaine Golf Wyoming
NOTE: To report a Whatcom County high school student athlete that is planning to continue their playing career in college, please contact David Rasbach at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-715-2286.
Reach DAVID RASBACH at email@example.com or call 715-2271.