Three Hopkins county area players headed to Southwestern Oklahoma State University
Bobby "Butch" Burney | News-Telegram Sports Editor
April 16, 2005 - Southwestern Oklahoma State University has about 500 out-of-state students. Next year, three more of them will be from Hopkins County.
A trio of Hopkins County athletes have signed letters of intent in the last week to attend the NCAA Division II university in Weatherford, Okla.
Sulphur Springs senior Betsy Blount and Sulphur Bluff senior Ashley Pettit have both signed letters to play volleyball, and North Hopkins senior Kate Hollenshead has committed to run cross country there.
SWOSU is a member of the North Division of the Lone Star Conference.
Blount had already made the decision she wanted to attend SWOSU because of the stellar reputation of its pharmacy school. Then, in December she found out they were also starting a volleyball team from scratch.
"We contacted the coach, and I had a tryout back in February," said Blount. "They called me back and said I had made the team."
Blount was named Most Valuable Setter in District 12-4A last fall after Sulphur Springs captured second place in the district. She also was a four-time regional qualifier in cross country, and starts in left field in softball.
Originally, she thought that if she were going to play a sport in college, it would be softball.
"Actually, I always liked softball over volleyball, but after this past year, I really liked volleyball a lot, and I miss playing it," she explained.
SSHS head coach John McCullough said SWOSU seems to be the perfect opportunity for Blount.
"What's exciting is that this is where she wanted to go to school to begin with. She wants to be a pharmacist, and they have a great pharmacy school there," McCullough explained. "They're getting a girl who is athletic, she anticipates well and moves to the ball. She has good hands, which is part of being a good athlete, she has good feet, and she puts the ball to where the hitters can do what they do best. I'm really excited for her."
At 5-11, Pettit was a top basketball player at Sulphur Bluff, winning co-MVP of the district as a junior. But, it was volleyball - where she was co-MVP of the district as a senior - that will take her to college.
"I've thought about playing athletics in college for forever," she said. "I wanted to play volleyball and basketball, but it would be too much. I'm better at volleyball. I don't like the contact sports as much as volleyball."
She decided on SWOSU because she knew the head coach, Bo Pagliasotti when he coached at Roxton, and she was familiar with some girls from Prairiland who played for Pagliasotti this past year at Clarendon College.
Understandably, she's excited about helping get the program started as an outside hitter.
"Everything is brand new," she said. "New team, new uniforms, they're even redoing the gym for us."
Sulphur Bluff head coach Jarrett Wilson said SWOSU is getting a top-notch player.
"They were looking for somebody they could bring into a program and mold into what they wanted, and that's Ashley," he said. "She's got a lot of ability. She's a definite leader on the floor, very competitive and ready to play."
Pettit will major in pre-med to become a reconstructive surgeon.
Hollenshead will also be taking a lengthy resume with her to SWOSU. She is a four-time state qualifier in cross country, including two team championships and an individual championship this season, and she is gunning for a state title in track as well.
She was just one second off the Class A state cross country record, and has never finished lower than third at the state meet.
She picked SWOSU for two reasons - 1) the pharmacy school; and 2) she can run cross country without running track.
"One of the main reasons I'm going there is because they have a school of pharmacy, and I want to become a pharmacist," she explained. "It's one of the best in the nation, so I know I'll get a good education.
"Another thing is that they have cross country, but they don't have a girls track team. I'd much rather run cross country than track."
Her coach, Tim Menke, said that's understandable because Hollenshead, like so many other girls at NH, participates in a lot of different sports.
"I think the thing is that our kids have gone through a hard cross country season, a real hard basketball season, and then by track season, they're physically and mentally tired," Menke said. "But, she's really gotten rejuvenated recently."
North Hopkins has a great reputation for producing distance runners, and Hollenshead is the latest in that line. Her time of 11 minutes, 34 seconds for the two-mile cross country course was the best ever for a NH runner.
"I want to do the best that I can. I'm going to try to become the top girl on the team," she said. "I think it's pretty much been on my mind all through high school, especially after I placed at state my freshman year.
"There have been times where I've thought I didn't want to run in college, but now I'm set on it."