The seniors seated at the decorated table in Santa Monica High School’s cafeteria have known for a while where they’ll be heading after graduation. But that didn’t make their experiences Wednesday morning any less special.

In a brief ceremony on National Signing Day, the four students made official their plans to continue their athletic careers at the college level.

Jonah Mathews, one of the top basketball prospects in Southern California, is heading to USC. Baseball teammates Jaylon McLaughlin and Lowell Schipper will play at Nevada and Richmond, respectively. Avery Salumbides is planning to join the rowing team at Dartmouth.

The students will add to a rich tradition of Samohi athletes who played sports after high school.

“You’re a part of over 100 years of Samohi family, and forever you will be a part of that,” principal Eva Mayoral said. “Every victory you achieve, every hurdle you conquer, you’ll have that 100-year legacy behind you, cheering for you, rooting for you and paining for you. Because it’s not always going to be sweet. There’s going to be that victory, but there’s going to be those moments where the basket didn’t drop or, ‘I struck out,’ ‘I made an error.’ It’s going to happen. But it’ll be most important to have the character to brush yourself off, get up and form a team around you and continue on.”

For Mathews, who has been committed to USC for months, Signing Day was merely ceremonial. But it gave the talented guard a chance to reflect on his basketball career and his opportunity to compete in the Pac-12.

“It feels really good,” he said, donning a cardinal red Trojans sweatshirt. “To sign to a big school like USC, it feels like a great achievement. It’s everything I’ve been working for since I was young.”

Vikings boys basketball coach James Hecht recalled a film session about four years ago when his team was watching video the day after Mathews’ older brother, Jordan, currently a member of the California men’s basketball team, scored the winning basket for Samohi in a game against Morningside. Mathews was in eighth grade at the time.

“Up in the bleachers, you can see Jonah running across, going crazy in celebration of what just happened,” Hecht said. “Someone said, ‘Coach, do you think Jonah is going to be an impact player here at Santa Monica High School?’ I said, ‘I think he might be.’”

Mathews has been stellar for the Vikings, who boasted a 20-2 overall record and a 6-0 mark in Ocean League play entering Wednesday night’s game at Lawndale. Among other recent accolades, he was selected as a nominee for the McDonald’s All American Games.

“Not only has he been an impact player for us on the court … but what I’m most proud of this year is the leadership he provides for his teammates on and off the court, sharing his past experiences and helping to keep our team together,” Hecht said.

McLaughlin and Schipper, who will lead the Samohi baseball team this spring, signed with their respective college programs a few months ago.

McLaughlin is looking forward to joining Nevada, which competes in Division I as a member of the Mountain West Conference.

“Now it’s time to go in the lab and work out more and get better to have the chance to possibly get drafted,” he said. “I just want to keep perfecting my craft and make my team better.”

For Schipper, who grew up playing hockey, a future that includes Division I baseball at Richmond is exhilarating.

“I’m excited for the speed of it, for the officiality of it,” he said. “For how much more aggressive you have to be, how much more dedicated you have to be. Everyone’s so good. The gaps are much narrow between who’s good and who’s not so good.”

Samohi baseball coach Loren Drake said it’s going to be hard to replace the two talented infielders.

“It’s been a pleasure to coach both of these guys,” he said. “Both of them are resilient. If they make an error or have a bad at-bat, they come back the next time and they’re better than they were the time before.”

Salumbides, a coxswain who has developed her steering skills at the Marina Aquatic Center over the last four years, is ecstatic about the chance to join the rowing program at Dartmouth.

“It’s really exciting,” she said.

jeff@www.smdp.com