MELISSA — Seniors Tarek Wallace Jr. and Bryanna Hernandez signed letters of intent to continue their education and athletic careers at the collegiate level on Thursday.


Wallace, a starting linebacker, will attend Howard Payne University while sprinter Hernandez will head to Southern Methodist University.


Wallace, a first-team all-district linebacker last year, was in on 63 tackles and had two interceptions as the team posted an 8-4 record with a playoff win.


“He’s had an outstanding career,” Melissa head coach Seth Stinton said. “He made a lot of progress over the past four years. Really, this past summer, he came in and was like, ‘Hey, I want to make sure that I advance for my degree.’ So he did. I’m very pleased for him.”


Said Wallace, “Being at Melissa was actually a really great experience. There were many hardships — not playing sometimes, not being that good. But then also, getting moved up freshman year and taking that responsibility. It’s been a great experience to be around so many great people, great coaches that will push you.”


Similarly, Wallace said he liked the way HPU teachers and coaches seemed to care a great deal for the student-athlete.


“It’s not just an environment where you go play football, pass or fail. It’s not like that. It’s pretty much a big family, a big community.” he said.


The Division III Yellow Jackets play in the American Southwest Conference.


Hernandez transferred to Melissa High School for her senior year.


“This for most would be very difficult,” girls head track coach Theodore Mackey III said. “But being the person she is, she fit right in with a very successful culture. For Bree, this wasn’t difficult because she came from Prestonwood Christian Academy, where she earned two TAPPS state championships in the 4x100 meter relay.”


Mackey noted among Hernandez’s achievements at Melissa: a fourth-place finish in the 100-meter dash at the Region II meet, “the toughest Region in Texas”; running a key third leg on the Lady Cards’ school-record 4x200-meter team; and helping send the 4x400-meter relay team to regionals.


“It’s been really interesting here at Melissa,” Hernandez said, “having to adjust from going to private school to public school. I love how it’s really small and you know everyone. I’m going to miss that kind of close-knit community.”


The Division I Mustangs compete in the American Athletic Conference.


“I loved everything about SMU,” Hernandez said. “The campus is beautiful. I loved the academics there. It’s just outstanding.”