Three student-athletes from Daviess County announced their plans to continue athletic careers at the next level during a joint ceremony at the high school Friday afternoon.
Dakota Walden will attend Asbury University for boys’ basketball, Lainey Armistead is joining a brand new girls’ soccer team at West Virginia State University, and Hailey Lancaster will continue her cheerleading career at Austin Peay State University.
Dakota Walden, boys’ basketball – Asbury University
Walden capped off his varsity career in stellar fashion, setting several school records before representing Daviess County in the 2019 Dawahares KABC East-West All-Star Game.
Walden finished the 2018-19 season as the sixth-leading scorer (25.6 points per game) in the entire state. He now holds the Panthers records in 3-pointers in a game (8), steals in a game (7), steals in a season (83) and career steals (49).
“I’ve tried to work as hard as I could over the last four years,” Walden said. “To finally get this opportunity means a lot to me. Since I started playing basketball, I wanted to get to the highest level I possibly could. I’m just happy to be here.”
Head coach Neil Hayden said Walden was a versatile and reliable asset for the team.
“He can do a whole lot with the basketball,” Hayden said. “We knew what we were going to get out of him every night because he would play hard and he cared about his teammates. He’s going to be hard to replace.”
Hayden thinks Walden will continue to improve as part of an Asbury team that has a potent offense.
“I think it’s a great fit,” Hayden said. “They score in the upper 90s per game. I think it will give him some freedom to play, and I think it’s a community that will fit his personality. He’s got a bright future ahead of him.”
Walden said the staff and team were very welcoming, and he’s looking forward to helping Asbury be a top team in the conference.
“The play style they have fits my play style, so I thought we’d be able to make some noise together,” he said. “I hope I can be a good teammate and have a good attitude and help the team compete in every game possible.”
Lainey Armistead, girls’ soccer – West Virginia State University
Armistead is getting in on the ground floor, as she’ll be a member of the first ever women’s soccer team at West Virginia State University. She’s looking forward to the opportunity to keep playing at the next level.
“I get to follow what I’m passionate about and continue doing it for four more years,” Armistead said. “I’ll get to interact with new teammates and grow as a person and player.”
The Yellow Jackets will field a team during the 2019-20 school year and compete as a full NCAA Division II and Mountain East Conference member the following year, according to the school’s athletic website.
Daviess County head coach David Sandifer said Armistead was able to take on multiple roles for the Lady Panthers and always showed plenty of effort.
“Lainey was voted our most outstanding defender this year,” he said. “She is an incredibly tough young lady. She’s hardworking and has a great personality. She’s got the capability of playing anywhere on the field. If they need a defender or midfielder or striker, she can fill whatever role they need. She’s a natural leader. I think she’ll do really well.”
Armistead said learning to play all over the field has helped her develop, and she hopes to take that versatility with her to college. While she prefers to play center back, Armistead said she’s keeping an open mind and will help the team in any way she can.
Though she’s going to a first-year team, Armistead said it wasn’t a difficult decision.
“I met the coach and she is incredible,” she said. “She’s very knowledgeable and passionate about the game. The goal and vision she had spoke more to me than even an established program in my eyes. I’m a pretty positive person and player. I think I’ll be able to communicate and hopefully establish a team where there’s respect and a good energy all around.”
Hailey Lancaster, cheerleading – Austin Peay State University
A long-time cheerleader, Lancaster was only at Daviess County for her senior year, but she didn’t let that stop her from working hard and earning a spot at a Division I school.
“I’ve been working for this since I was young, probably around fifth grade,” Lancaster said. “It’s been a huge deal to me to be able to go to college and do what I love.”
DC cheer coach Kitty Jones said Lancaster was a natural fit right away, and the senior wasted no time taking on a big role with the team.
“Hailey was a true leader and asset,” she said. “She was a team player all around. She’d come in and take different roles. Having someone that is very versatile means a lot to the program.”
Lancaster said her ability to perform in any position is a major strength, and she’ll do whatever it takes to help the team succeed.
“I can work well in any situation you put me in,” she said. “I can be a flyer, a back spot, a base, a tumbler. I can be anywhere and succeed in that position.”
Lancaster said it was a rough start when she came to Daviess County, but the other girls on the squad helped her feel at home.
“Being here was very difficult at first,” she said. “I was kind of struggling, but the cheerleaders definitely helped me make Daviess County a better environment and help me have the best year I’ve ever had.”
The Austin Peay team performs at games and also competes nationally. Lancaster has known she wanted to join their program since meeting a few APSU cheerleaders who were at an all-star competition Lancaster was performing in a couple years ago.
“They gave me the best experience I’ve ever had,” Lancaster said. “I am very excited to pursue that career there.”