DESTIN — Madison Carnal felt anxious. The moment was finally here.


Friends and family surrounding her at the Destin seafood restaurant where she works, Carnal, a senior thrower on the Fort Walton Beach track team, signed her letter of intent Friday afternoon to continue her athletic career at St. Thomas University in Miami Gardens.


“It was a little nerve-wracking doing it in front of other people, but I was overall really excited to be continuing my career at this new school that’s slowly getting bigger and becoming better,” Carnal said. “Their throwing team has done really well in the past, so that really helped with me making my decision.”


St. Thomas reached out as winter was coming to a close, Carnal said. She had other schools interested, but the more she looked, the more she realized the Bobcats offered what she wanted most: A small campus and a coaching staff that cared.


“The coaches were really helpful, really welcoming and were really excited and encouraging,” she said. “I talk to them almost daily; they text me almost every day, asking how I’m doing, where I’m at, if I’m putting in any work in the offseason.


“It just seemed like they really cared more than the other coaches I talked to.”


That’s good, too, Carnal said. After placing fifth in the discus throw and eighth in shot put at the District 1-3A track meet this past year as a junior, she plans to push herself even harder in college alongside coaches who will challenge her.


St. Thomas also boasted the major she most wanted to pursue: Psychology. Although she doesn’t yet know how she plans to apply her degree, the science fascinated her during her coursework at Fort Walton Beach.


“I think mostly with psychology it’s just how small things in the body can affect everything is what interests me the most and how there’s different parts of the brain you can work with and how it connects with the rest of your body,” she said.


Track and educational goals aside, Carnal said she is ready to put her strange senior year behind her.


“I think I’m mostly looking forward to the fresh start or the people that I’m gonna meet or the places that I’m gonna go being on this team because we travel,” she said. “I’m pretty excited about all that.”