Karlee Wells always envisioned herself signing a college athletic scholarship.

Wells competed in sports from a young age, excelling in gymnastics. She expected gymnastics would be her ticket to college competition but, on Nov. 10, Wells signed to accept a different type of scholarship.

The North Oconee High School senior inked documents to join the swimming and diving team at Georgia Southern.

“I never thought I would be standing up there for diving,” Wells said at her signing ceremony Nov. 10. “I did gymnastics my whole life, so I thought I would go to college for gymnastics. But I started diving two years ago.”

Wells said she switched from gymnastics to diving because of injuries she suffered as a gymnast.

“I had a couple of injuries where I hurt my hand and had to have surgery,” Wells said. “Then, I hurt my arm. I really just didn't have the love for the sport anymore. I had a couple of friends that stopped gymnastics and started diving, so I tried it and immediately fell in love with it. It's been my life since then.”

Her coach said Wells’ transition was nearly flawless.

North Oconee swimming and diving coach Scott Burrell spoke at the signing ceremony. He described how Wells switched sports after several years.

Though she was new to the diving world, Burrell said Wells picked up the sport quickly, noting that she qualified for the state competition within her first few meets with the Titans.

“I had the opportunity to teach her in seventh grade and she was into gymnastics. That was her life for so many years,” Burrell said. “For whatever reason, life takes different paths and her path ended up with her becoming a diver as a sophomore. She's actually only been a diver for a little bit more than two years. It's incredible how much she's accomplished in such a short amount of time.”

Since joining the program, Wells has steadily improved and helped the North Oconee program achieve high levels of success.

She also revitalized the school’s diving efforts, according to Burrell. Wells marked the first North Oconee diver to receive a college scholarship in four years.

“I credit her for getting our diving program jump started again,” Burrell said. “We were fortunate to have maybe a diver every couple of years and, this year, just to see how much she has helped with this, we have five divers, which is huge. She's gotten people excited about diving.”

Wells said she immediately enjoyed diving. She even told her mother soon after beginning the sport that she wanted to compete long-term via a spot on a college team.

With her signing ceremony, Wells was able to turn that dream into a reality.

She signed inside North Oconee’s field house. Wells was joined by several family members, friends, coaches and teammates as she made her future plans official.

“It means a lot to me,” Wells said about having the ceremony. “Having all my friends and family there means a lot to me because they've been my support through all of this. My club coach was there, and she's been a really big support in my life, and my family and friends were all there and my grandparents.”

As she progressed during her time at North Oconee, Wells drew the attention of college scouts.

Wells received an offer from Marshall University in addition to the scholarship from Georgia Southern. She said the vibe she felt at Georgia Southern convinced her to join the Eagles.

“I went on visits to both and the Georgia Southern atmosphere felt like family,” Wells said. “The girls were all so nice and so were the coaches. When I was there, I felt like I was part of a big family and I really liked that.”

Wells said she intends to major in biochemistry while attending Georgia Southern. She one day plans to work as a pharmacist.

As for her athletic goals, Wells intends on making her mark with the Eagles.

“I want to do very well in my conference for diving on 1-meter and 3-meter,” she said. “I want to improve my dives and get a few new dives.”

Wells is in her final season with the Titans swimming program.

She will head to Statesboro upon graduation in May with her high school days behind her. But Wells believes she and her teammates, including Rin Drudge, have made the program stronger and set it up for future success.

“I know they have a bunch of strong girls behind me diving,” Wells said. “One of my teammates that I dive club with (Drudge), she's behind me and we go back-and-forth at every meet. So, they're gonna have a good dive team to continue next year.”

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