Cullin Bennett says yes to Jimmies, signs to compete for UJ
Cullin Bennett, a senior at Jamestown High School, recently committed to play collegiate soccer for the University of Jamestown.
Cullin Bennett has been watching the University of Jamestown men's soccer team since he was in elementary school.
"An early memory I have was just watching them play on the old grass field and looking up to them," Bennett said.
This fall, Bennett will finally become a part of the Jimmies' roster and potentially be a role model who today's elementary school students look up to.
The Jamestown High School senior signed his National Letter of Intent to compete for the Jimmie men's soccer team last week, accomplishing for him a dream that has been 10 years in the making.
"I wanted to play for UJ," Bennett said. "I didn’t apply anywhere else.
"I think the UJ men's team brings a good competition to the table and isn’t an easy team to break down."
Bennett has been a part of the Jamestown Soccer Club since he was 8 years old and was a part of the Jamestown High School boys soccer roster for the last five seasons.
"I just have always loved the sport but the biggest thing that got me into it was watching the professional teams and trying to be as good as them, and trying the tricks they would use," Bennett said.
"The biggest things I’m going to bring into UJ that lower levels have taught me are using both feet and using my back foot always."
Bennett, primarily a defender for the Blue Jay crew, made a significant jump from his junior to senior season in terms of total points earned. As a junior, Bennett nabbed one goal and ended the 2020 campaign with one total point.
Last fall, Bennett tallied the second-most points on the Blue Jay squad earned in WDA matches with four. Three of Bennett's points came as goals. The senior also recorded an assist for the books.
Jarrett Zalumskis led the pack with six points.
The Jimmie commit also helped Blue Jay goalie Ryan Larson pitch a pair of shutouts against Dickinson and Bismarck High during the regular season and then again against Williston in a WDA Tournament play-in match.
"I’m still not even close to where I think I could be with the sport," Bennett said. "I’ve gone through a lot with the sport but have always came back to it. (There have been) hours on hours of training, many games won and lost — but it has all worked out in the end."
While there was some disappointment with how Bennett's prep career ended — just short of making the state tournament for the second-straight year — the senior knew he had more to look forward to as the official offer to play at UJ came while he was finishing up business with the Blue Jays.
"I got an offer from (previous head coach Tommy Nienhaus) last summer and then this fall, Coach (Connor) Campbell got a hold of me, and I accepted right away," Bennett said.
Bennett said following his graduation from JHS at the end of May, he will start ramping up his training in order to prepare for his inaugural collegiate season. The senior said he will be going on a lot of runs, out to the fields to work on his technical abilities and to the gym more often for strengthening and conditioning purposes.
"I expect it to be a challenge transitioning to the sport, it’s a whole new view on the game," Bennett said. "But transitioning to the team itself will be easy, Coach Campbell told me it’s a great group of guys that keeps everyone involved."
Bennett will be joining former Blue Jay standout defender and current Jimmie defender Ben Sletto. Sletto and Bennett were both a part of the Blue Jays' 2019 state tournament team. Sletto is currently the only Jamestown native on the Jimmies' squad and is one of four former North Dakota prep players.
Campbell has recruited Minot's Reegan Meyer, Nick Veres, formerly of Grand Forks Central, and Fargo South's Taylor Lubungo to play for the Jimmies.
Currently, the Jimmie men's soccer team has 18 international athletes on the roster. There are 14 national athletes who have made the team. The 32-man squad led the Jimmies to a 6-9-2 overall record — a season that was wrapped up with a 5-0 loss to Briar Cliff University in the GPAC quarterfinals on Nov. 3.
"I’m really happy to have made it to the college level (but) I’m gonna miss my boys on the JHS soccer team," Bennett said.
"The soccer community in Jamestown has grown a lot since I first started and I’m excited to see where things go in the future."