McComb’s Destiny Smith and Shayla Felder recently signed Division I scholarships to continue athletic careers — just not in the same sport or at the same school.
Felder signed with Mississippi State on a track scholarship and Smith signed to play basketball at the University of Southern Mississippi.
The two athletes held a joint signing event Wednesday to share the moment with family and friends in the McComb High School auditorium.
Although they will be playing different sports from each other in college, the duo did participate on both the McComb track and basketball teams and earned success together.
Both athletes have been members of the Lady Tiger track team, which has won three straight state championships.
Last year’s Lady Tiger basketball team finished the year with a 29-3 record and a trip to the third round of the playoffs.
Both athletes said they felt like a weight had been lifted when they put their John Hancocks where it needed to go.
“It’s a big relief,” Felder said. “It’s real. It’s like real life now.”
“It’s a blessing,” Smith replied with a smile.
At McComb, Felder did damage in a slew of events, which include the 200- and 400-meter dashes and a series of relay races in which she was part of a state championship squad.
This past summer, she also competed with the Southwest Mississippi Roadrunner track club and was coached by Kristie Robinson, Victor Montgomery and Charlie Floyd.
She qualified for the national meet with the Roadrunners, which took place in Kansas.
Head track coach Jeffery Gibson coached both women and said they bring a strong work ethic to their respective programs.
“They’re going to bring work ethic because they’ve been through the ringer,” he said with a smile. “They’ll be able to bring some toughness, a little grit to their program. Also, they’re both talented in their respective sports, so I think they’ll bring an added element of talent themselves to help improve each program.”
They both said the places they chose felt comfortable when they visited.
“I chose Mississippi State because when I went to visit, it felt like home and what’s a better place to go than home away from home?” Felder said.
Smith signed to play for head coach Joye Lee-McNelis, who has been at the helm of the program for the last 13 years.
Last season Smith averaged nine points, seven rebounds and two blocks per game.
Through three games this season, she is averaging 14 points, 10 rebounds, seven steals and three blocks and the Lady Tigers are 3-0.
Smith said her and Felder’s success will set an example for their younger peers at the school.
“That should set an example, like a positive example,” Smith said. “That makes us feel good because coming from McComb, Mississippi, it’s not big, so we’re doing good things. We’re proud. We’re excited.”
Gibson said their parents are to be commended for what they do.
“I thank the parents for being amazing and allowing us coaches and McComb School District to educate and coach their child,” Gibson said. “I want to thank them for that and the community for their support.