SPORTS: Lady Firebirds Swinging to Continue a Legacy

Softball players announce commitment to play college softball
Archived photo by Mallory Thompson
Archived photo by Mallory Thompson
Mallory Thompson

During the past few years, the varsity softball team has set winning standards on the field and has nurtured several players who proceeded to play the sport at a college level. This year, ambitious senior softball players are set to break the odds. 

In the midst of preparing for their final season of high school softball, some senior varsity players have announced their intention to continue playing the sport at the next level. This year they are looking at six senior players who announced their commitment to play the sport at college. 

The 2024 commits are listed as follows: Elsa Carillo to Johnson County Community College, Hannah Hayes to Kansas Wesleyan University, Gracie Rothwell to Iowa Western Community College, Bailey Smith to Iowa Lakes Community College, Aly Richardson to Colby Community College and Megan Kohl to Ottawa University.


For student-athletes who aspire to play the sport they love at a college level, they must first get the attention of college coaches. For many softball athletes they attend camps or post videos online to promote themselves showcasing their skills. 

With thousands of student-athletes showing their interest to commit to playing college softball, the fierce competition of getting a spot to play for a college team means more than just being part of the high school varsity team. 

“You have to put yourself out there, including for colleges. They’ll reach out to you, but you have to express yourself,” Kohl said. 

In order for these Firebirds to put themselves in the field to showcase their talents for colleges, they also have to stay on track with their academic commitments by keeping up with classes and after-school activities.

“Sometimes it can be really hard, but I just seem to remember that school comes first…even when I want to be at softball,” Hayes said. 

It is the hard work and determination that brought these Firebirds where they wanted to be. With the mindset of achieving their goals, they often attend hitting lessons on top of practices. Kohl said that for high school softball, you have to practice every single day to be in a position to commit to playing for college. 

For students who are in a similar position as these Firebirds, Carillo shared a piece of advice.

“Just relax and enjoy the time you have left with your teams now, because a lot of those girls [teammates] you probably won’t see anymore, and just enjoy the little moments. Be grateful that you’re able to play the sport and you’re able to continue what you love to do,” Carillo said.


The supportive atmosphere that the softball team cultivated helped these Firebirds reach their goal of playing the sport in college. Ever since Carillo was part of the team, she mentioned how her teammates were always there for her to help her stay motivated during her time there. 

“They talk to you as an individual, always knowing that I can have those girls that I can rely on [and] that I know that they’ll be there for me on the field and off the field,” Carillo said. “If I have a hard day at school, I can go on the field and just let it all out. All that stress will just be washed away after that.”

Most of these players have been playing the sport for all four years during their time at high school. For them being part of the team is like being part of a family. 

“You make a lot of friends, and the girls you play with become part of a family. And you always welcome the new girls. You always help them out. That’s how it goes, “ Kohl said. 

With the academic year slowly approaching its near end, this group of senior girls will part ways to enter their college softball realms. 

These firebirds are continuing a swinging legacy, of a sport they cherished during their high school years. They have gotten the opportunity to play the sport they love at the next level. 

“Softball has always been a part of my life, and I really wasn’t ready to let it go yet. So I just wanted it to still be a part of me,” Hayes said.

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About the Contributors
Rakshan Ossen
Rakshan Ossen, Reporter
Rakshan Ossen is a sophomore at Free State and is a reporter for FSJ. He devotes himself to the Free State community by being involved with many clubs at school. Outside of his academic life, he finds himself being an enthusiast in Formula 1 Racing, playing sports and taking architectural photography.
Mallory Thompson
Mallory Thompson, News Photo Editor
Mallory Thompson is a junior at Free State. This is her second year on staff and she is Photo Editor for the Free Press Newspaper and Online. Outside of journalism, Mallory is involved in LINK Crew, National Honor Society, and the Student Library Advisory Board.
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