Somerset High School is a small secondary educational institution situated on College Street and nestled within downtown Somerset, Kentucky.
And while the local historical establishment may be small size, it is huge in tradition.
With an enrollment of about 520 students, Somerset High School is considered a small school in sporting classifications. But don’t tell the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville, because the two Kentucky D1 major universities have signed a good number of the local small school’s student-athletes
This past year, Maranda Mills was a sophomore on the University of Louisville track team, Brynlee Bigelow was a freshman on the University of Kentucky softball team and Storm Wilson was a senior on the University of Kentucky baseball team.
And more amazingly, the two big Kentucky colleges have shown interest in a couple of Briar Jumper underclassman athletes. As a sophomore in 2016, Trae Harmon committed to play baseball for the Kentucky Wildcats, while this past spring eighth-grader Kade Grundy committed to the Louisville Cardinals baseball team.
Maybe it is a coincidence, or maybe there is something else that draws the state’s two big colleges to Somerset High School athletics.
Former Somerset High School principal Wesley Cornett explained that the reason so many of the Somerset student-athletes are being sought after by the state’s two largest educational, and athletic, institutions is more that just coincidence.
“Somerset has been known for years for our athletic success, but also for the number of student-athletes that go on to play at the collegiate level,” stated Cornett, who recently retired as Somerset’s principal after six years at the helm. “With the uniqueness of our mascot, being the only school in our county with football for many years, Somerset High School being the only school willing to join with Dunbar in accepting black students in the 1950’s and the notoriety of the Ray Correll’s, Dock McCartt’s, Leslie Ford’s, Bo McMillan’s, Rochelle Henderson’s and Jeff ‘Slick’ Perkins’, there are expectations that our students will play at the next level.”
“We have expectations and commitment from parents to instill in their student-athletes a work ethic to be able to have both the physical and mental skills to play at a higher level; we have a commitment from the board of education to have top-notch facilities for our athletes to play in and on, and we have coaches who prepare and promote their student-athletes and ‘get their name out there’ to college coaches across our state,” Cornett explained.
One of the best Somerset coach of getting the ‘word out’ to colleges about his athletes is SHS baseball coach Phil Grundy, who had the lion share of recent Briar Jumpers D-1 commitments – including his eighth-grade son Kade Grundy.
“I think we always deserve to win, I think our players are good enough, our staff is good enough and I think we have done the right things,” Coach Grundy stated. “But in the end, our kids do go to college and they get opportunities to play baseball at the college level, and now more and more are getting legitimate D1 offers.”
“I don’t think any child, who came through our program, that wanted to play baseball in college didn’t get that opportunity,” Grundy vaunted. “Over 100 kids have signed college scholarships in baseball just in our tenure here as a staff.”
“Playing baseball at the high school level is a lot of fun, but at the college level is a lot of work and it is tough,” Grundy warned. “Just because you good enough to be signed by a college program doesn’t mean you are automatically good enough to play there. They are going to ask you to continue to develop and that is what Storm Wilson did at the University of Kentucky.”
“We have so many players signed to play college and many have signed D1 scholarships,” Grundy continued. “We have had so many kids that love baseball, but they don’t always love the coach and they don’t always love me but when you get play college baseball it is a privilege.”
“When you work that hard and someone offers you a monetary scholarship to attend a college, you are foolish not to take it,” said Grundy. “Then if you make it through your freshman year, then your odds of staying the entire time quadruples. And that is what we try to instill in our kids here at Somerset, is that when you get to college the battle is not over. You got to keep battling, you got to keep adjusting and you got to keep making the push to be better.”
Not only does Somerset High School prepare their student-athletes to compete at a high level, but the former Briar Jumper principal feels that the school’s rich tradition also plays a big part in their student-athletes’ success at the next level.
“I, as a principal, have always felt that setting and expecting high expectations for athletics and academics will lead to success in both areas and Somerset High School is an example of those high expectations reaping those academic and athletic benefits for our students,” stated Cornett, who concluded a 27-year career in education this past spring. “We are a top-ranked high school academically, along with successful athletic programs with student-athletes consistently going on to play at the NAIA and NCAA Div. 1 levels,” Cornett said. “We have a saying at SHS that says, ‘Tradition guides us, but Achievement drives us’. Most of our students begin elementary school together, play on the same little league teams together, play middle school together and ultimately play together and push each other to be the best both on and off the court in high school.”
“We still have float building with 300 to 400 students working all week to complete; we have an entire school and community participate in the annual Jumper Walk to Clark Field for the first home football game; we will have 100 to 200 students come and cheer at soccer games; we have full student sections at girls and boys basketball games as well as our volleyball games,” Cornett added.
Cornett also debunked the common myth that D-1 athletes usually concentrated on just one sport in their prep school years. With fewer student-athletes to choose from, most all of the Briar Jumpers’ student-athletes compete in multiple sports for their local high school.
“Most or all of our future D1 and other college bound student-athletes are multi-sport athletes, which helps make them better athletes and more skilled in their ‘primary’ sport,” Cornett stated. “They will even sacrifice time working on their ‘primary’ sport to play another sport to challenge their teammates and find success for their teammates and our school.”