• January 20, 2020

COLLEGE SIGNINGS: Odessa High's Pena, Ford ink letters of intent - Odessa American: Sports

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COLLEGE SIGNINGS: Odessa High's Pena, Ford ink letters of intent

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Posted: Wednesday, January 15, 2020 6:49 pm

Gibrian Pena has been a mainstay for the Odessa High baseball program the past four seasons.

Aleisha Ford will compete for the school for just one season after transferring from Kaufman High School.

Both will represent the Bronchos at the next level.

With family, friends, classmates, coaches and administrators looking on, the duo signed letters of intent to continue their athletic careers at the collegiate level Wednesday at the OHS Fieldhouse.

Pena signed to play for the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley beginning with the 2020-21 season and becomes the first player to sign with a Division I school in head coach Josh Hulin’s 13-years with the program.

“I just really liked the school, the coaching staff, the players and the weather,” Pena said of his recruiting trip that sold him on joining the Vaqueros’ program.

“It’s a really good program and I can’t wait to get down there and work hard and be a part of the program.”

Pena was part of the Bronchos run to the Class 6A regional semifinals in 2019 and is looking for more of the same success in his final season of high school competition.

Hulin feels that Pena is ready to compete immediately at the next level.

“Gibrian is one of those guys that loves the spotlight and he’s always prepared,” Hulin said. “When we played in the regional semifinals at Globe Life Park in Arlington (home of the Texas Rangers), he made every play.

“Rio Grande Valley is a good program. They play a lot of Big 12 schools during their preseason schedule. They do have a lot of travel, though, being so far down in the Valley.”

Ford, who quickly established herself as one of the Lady Bronchos’ top cross country athletes, will stay close to home to run cross country at UTPB.

It’s a decision that Odessa High girls cross country and track coach Ricky Santiago said came after Ford received offers from many schools, including Big 12 power Kansas and Big 10 standout Nebraska, among others.

Santiago, who said that Ford will likely run middle distance and relays for the Lady Bronchos during track season, added that having her parents be able to watch her compete was a big factor.

“When she transferred in this season she was running in the fourth or fifth spot for us and quickly moved into our top three,” Santiago said. “She is just going to keep on improving.

“We talked about UTPB and it came down to her parents being able to watch her and she was going to have her education paid for. It’s a great situation for her.”

Ford is the daughter of Odessa High defensive coordinator Eule Ford and moved to the Permian Basin after two years at Kaufman.

Getting the chance to run in front of family and friends was part of the decision-making process, she confirmed. Ford also is looking forward to settling down for a while.

“It’s going to be nice to be at home and run for UTPB,” she said. “When I went to talk to them about the program, they treated me like I was already part of the team, not just a recruit, and I really liked that.”

>> Follow Lee Scheide on Twitter at @OALeeScheide

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