Spring Signing Day 2019: Norman High's Anna Backus signs with Hawaii

Joe Buettner / The Transcript

Norman High senior Anna Backus, right, smiles as she prepares to sign with the University of Hawai'i cross country and track team on Wednesday, April 17, 2019, at NHS' basketball gym.

Anna Backus couldn't stop smiling.

Family and classmates, as well as a few green and white star-shaped balloons, surrounded her minutes after she signed with the University of Hawai'i to run cross country and track and field.

A blissful moment overcame the Norman High senior, who sported a green Hawai'i shirt and lei around her neck.

"It's really exciting, a lot of emotions," Backus said. "It's surreal almost, but I'm really excited about the next chapter in life."

NHS celebrated the college signings of five student-athletes inside its gymnasium Wednesday morning.

Each athlete's head coach addressed the crowd in attendance for the signing day ceremony and said a few words about their respective departing senior.

When NHS coach Scott Monnard's time came, he couldn't have been more complimentary of Backus' contributions to his program.

"It's a bittersweet morning," he said to the crowd, "it's sad to see her career come to an end, but I'm very proud of her."

Backus was instrumental to NHS' most recent cross country and track success.

The Oklahoma Track Coaches Association selected Backus as a 2018 senior cross country all-star after she finished top 10 individually and helped NHS place third overall at last season's 6A cross country state meet.

The year before, Backus placed No. 13 individually at the state meet and helped propel the Tigers to their first girls cross country state championship since 1981.

"When you get these student-athletes, you never know how good they're going to be," Monnard said. "But I was always impressed with her maturity, her work ethic and she's just someone that does everything we asked."

Monnard knew Backus in middle school, and her maturity has been apparent ever since.

Backus always showed a willingness to be coachable, which isn't always the case with high-caliber athletes, Monnard said.

The Hawai'i-bound Backus credits her coach, however, for putting her in a position to compete at the Division I level.

"I'm really honored to be a part of this team," Backus said. "The track and cross country team is phenomenal, especially with Monnard being head coach. I honestly couldn't be the runner I am today without him and coach (Emily) Bonner.

"I feel really humbled and honored to get to be a part of that experience."

Backus plans to study international business and enroll in the university's Chinese Language Flagship program, which made Hawai'i a perfect fit for her academic aspirations.

Although, the state's weather didn't hurt either.

"I think it's going to be a huge difference," Backus said. "But I'm really excited just for a whole new group of people to look forward to and new culture."

The senior still has a track season to finish with the Tigers, but Backus is eager for what's next in her athletic career.

She'll always be happy, though, to return home, where she and her teammates have set a lofty standard for future NHS runners.

"To finish in the top three (at state) all four years, I think we just took it to another level," Monnard said of Backus' cross country teams. " ... What's she done is she's shown the younger kids that the bar is raised."