NH seniors make their mark
Tyler Clifton | News-Telegram Sports Writer

May 10, 2004 -- BIRTHRIGHT -- Any athletic team on any level has accomplished something if it goes through its respective district undefeated.

Not only did the North Hopkins softball team go unscathed in District 11-A this season, but so did its volleyball team and girls basketball team for that matter.

Five seniors have played significant roles on the success of one or more of these teams. Anyone who knows Lady Panther athletics knows the success stories of Mary Casey, Hope Harber and Lindsey Horne, but those such as Hanna Hankins and Scarlet Thompson have made their mark as well.

Hankins is a rare commodity in the fact that she's a left-handed catcher. Head coach Jim Westbrook moved her behind the plate two years ago during the playoffs because of her arm strength and so he could move Casey to the outfield, where she could take advantage of her speed.

Hankins is a four-year starter on the softball team and played volleyball. She's also the team's No. 2 pitcher and bats fifth, where she had two RBI hits in last Tuesday's 10-1 win over Cumby in the first round of the playoffs in Como.

Westbrook asked his seniors last week and again during Friday morning's practice if they were satisfied with their current standing, and they quickly responded with a resounding "No." Although the girls won't be content with a loss Tuesday night to Sam Rayburn, Hankins prefers to look at the situation in a slightly different way.

"I'd love to go to state," Hankins said. "If we don't make it all the way, I'm not going to look at it as a bad year though."

Hankins is successful off the field as well, participating in State UIL in informative speaking while also being a member of the student council and BETA club.

Thompson moved from center field to left field upon Casey's arrival to the outfield and bats eighth in a lineup that is solid from top to bottom. She was involved in a textbook play during the third inning of last week's game, when she drove the first pitch to right field and scored Casey, who reached on an infield hit and advanced to second on a sacrifice.

The girls are quick to point out that a solid group of underclassmen has helped them be the success they are, but Thompson said the rest of the team is playing as hard as it can, so that the seniors' last game will be in the state final in Austin.

"I think we're successful because of the way we play as a team," Thompson said. "Mr. Westbrook has helped us out a lot, and we've all dedicated our time and have practiced hard so we can go to state. The rest of our team is behind us every step of the way and wants to win it for the seniors."

Thompson advanced to UIL regionals in poetry and is also a member of the student council and BETA club.

"Both of these girls participated in our offseason program and have been loyal members of this team," Westbrook said. "They've both improved dramatically and have improved our chances to win by increasing our depth up and down the lineup. They do a good job of getting on base and scoring runs for us."

Casey doesn't really need an introduction, as she was All-State cross country and All-District in volleyball and basketball. She's competing this weekend in the state track meet in the 1,600- and 3,200-meter runs, but it didn't go without a scare in the Cumby game, as she was involved in a major collision at home plate. She came out of it with only a busted lip.

"When she was lying on the ground, the state track meet was going through my head," Westbrook said. "I was thinking of how much trouble I'd be in if she had hurt her ankle or knee. Injuries are possible at any time, but that wouldn't have been a good situation for us."

Harber was the district Most Valuable Player in volleyball and also played basketball and ran track, where she won district in the mile relay along with Casey.

Horne played volleyball and basketball in addition to her softball duties. She combines with Harber to provide a more than formidable corner infield.

It all adds up to what has been an unbeatable season in every sense of the word. For Westbrook, it has only made his job easier, but he points out Thompson speaking up during a recent team meeting and reminding the girls the importance of staying sharp.

"There are so many distractions for these seniors, particularly in the spring," Westbrook said. "These girls have tremendous focus. They know the end is in sight, but they still want more."

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