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    The Final Byte: Why It Was So Hard To Leave The 'J'

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    With the Northwestern Softball alumni game just a day away, Kristin (Scharkey) Jensen looks back on her four years in Kate Drohan's program in the final installment of Schark Bytes.

    I remember the first time I met Kate and Caryl Drohan.

    Marisa Bast Attends USOC F.L.A.M.E. Conference

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    By Marisa Bast

    This summer, I attended the F.L.A.M.E. (Finding Leaders Among Minorities Everywhere) program in Colorado Springs, Colo., an educational experience catered to minority students that is put on annually by the United States Olympic Committee. I spent four inspirational days at the training center, surrounded by an overwhelming amount of excellence -- excellence that presented itself in the form of Olympians and Olympic hopefuls, Paralympians, staff leaders, executives and 27 other college students.


    Marisa Bast with National Team fencers Ivan Lee (left) and Jason Pryor (right).

    The program, in its 20th year, consisted of an itinerary that was teeming with motivational presentations, leadership seminars and other workshops led by F.L.A.M.E. alumni, current and former Olympians, USOC staff and current Paralympians. Speakers included five-time Olympic medalist and basketball legend Teresa Edwards, speedskating Olympic medalist Derek Parra and Paralympic Judo medalist Dartanyon Crockett, whose story you may have seen featured on ESPN's "Outside the Lines." In conjunction with these presentations, we were able to partake in Olympic and Paralympic sport demonstrations including fencing, sitting volleyball and team handball, in addition to venturing outside the training center and visiting the beautiful Garden of the Gods, a national natural landmark featuring a magnificent set of red rock formations.


    Needless to say, being a F.L.A.M.E. participant was an amazing, eye-opening and motivational experience. I was also able to gain an inside look at the U.S. Olympic committee, foster my own personal and professional growth, improve my leadership skills and communication strategies, expand my network and learn the values of hard work, integrity and perseverance from Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls and standouts.

    In just four days, I was able to learn about sports, the Olympic games, various business tactics and strategies as well as the values of respect, friendship and sheer determination. My biggest takeaway from this program, however, was that hard work trumps all and is vital to one's success; in other words, you are capable of anything if you set your mind to it. As cliche as this sounds, it is 100 percent true. Hard work is blind to socioeconomic status, race, age and educational background. It rewards those who remain loyal to it, and abandons those who are fearful and shy. Hard work can be your best friend or your worst enemy.


    Hearing how Olympic and Paralympic standouts like Derek Parra and Dartanyon Crockett overcame adversity, jumped over hurdles to attain success and lived like champions within and outside the boundaries of their respective sports was incredibly inspiring. They instilled a sense of passion and thirst for greatness within me simply by sharing their journeys to the Olympics, journeys laden with hardship, grit and determination.


    The 2012-13 academic year was a memorable one for Northwestern. Over the next several weeks, we will celebrate the conference championships, noteworthy wins and significant milestones that the Wildcats accumulated during the past year. Be sure to follow along at as we revisit our top 20 moments!

    Moment No. 17
    Date March 29, 2013
    Location Sharon J. Drysdale Field | Evanston, Ill.
    Original Story Amy Letourneau No-Hits Minnesota in NU Home Opener
    Video Video Highlights
    Social Media @NUSBCats   |  Northwestern Softball
    Top 20 Countdown Northwestern's Top 20 Moments of 2012-13 Countdown

    Northwestern sophomore ace Amy Letourneau harnessed the nasty stuff she had been dealing all season long in Northwestern's 2013 home opener March 29 against Minnesota, throwing the 45th no-hitter in Wildcats' history in a 6-2 win over the Gophers -- the first no-no of her career and the first of two she would throw in the space of one week.

    Watch Game Highlights

    Letourneau at times struggled to control her filthy repertoire, allowing 11 total base runners in the game on nine walks and two hit batsmen. She did allow two runs (only one earned) in the third inning, but recovered to hold Minnesota at bay the remainder of the game while racking up 11 strikeouts for her ninth double-digit K game of the season.

    The no-no was the first of Letourneau's career and the 45th in school history. It was the first since current junior Sammy Albanese no-hit Saint Mary's (Calif.) on March 22, 2011, in a five-inning contest and it was NU's first full seven-inning no-hitter since Lauren Delaney performed the feat against Cal State Fullerton on Feb. 12, 2010.

    Northwestern took the early lead in the game courtesy of second-inning RBI singles from Olivia Duehr and Kristin Scharkey. Minnesota would tie the contest in the third before NU did the rest of the scoring with three runs in the third and another in the fourth to cement the victory.

    Just one week later in the Friday opening game of a home series against Illinois, Letourneau again threw a no-hitter, this time fanning eight and walking the same in an 8-0 (5) victory. Letourneau is the ninth pitcher in Northwestern history to toss multiple no-hitters in her career.

    Volunteer Assistants Make Full Time Impact

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    As I was going through the post-game high-fives with Tennessee this weekend in Palm Springs, I noticed a familiar face perched on the grass hill down the right field line. She was all decked out in her USSSA Pride gear, but I'd know her silhouette anywhere. It wasn't too long ago that I stepped on campus as a freshman 3,000 miles away from home, and Lauren Lappin was our volunteer assistant coach.


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    Editor's Note: Northwestern women's swimmers Jackie Powell and Megan Goss spearheaded the inaugural "Breaststroke4BreastCancer" relay to raise funds for local cancer research. In an incredible display of support and organizational prowess, the first-time event filled 17 lanes at NU's Norris Aquatics Center with more than 150 swimmers who combined to tally 70,000 yards (or 39 miles) of swimming in just one hour. NU's Beta Fraternity won a trophy with the most total yards: 5,350. In addition, special guest Joan Zielinski, a Northwestern professor and invitee of Wildcats' junior swimmer Becca Soderholm, shared her experience with breast cancer with the crowd during a fun, education and powerful evening. Read on for Kristin Scharkey's perspective on how much the event meant to her team and one softball Wildcat in particular.

    On October 24, dozens of Northwestern student-athletes swam in Northwestern Women's Swimming and Diving's fundraiser "Breaststroke4BreastCancer." Our own team swam over 4,000 yards in one hour, raising money for breast cancer research and contributing to the university's final total in which the swimming program more than doubled their target goal. 

    Rhythms of Rwanda

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    EDITOR'S NOTE: Kristin currently is on a two-month journey in a small village in Rwanda called Musanze where she is teaching English at a non-profit organization that combats poverty through housing and education. While there, Kristin is maintaining a separate blog from her regular Schark Bytes column called Rhythms of Rwanda.

    Below is an excerpt from an entry today entitled "When Teacher Becomes Student." Be sure to check her blog regularly to follow her inspiration, adventures and photos in what is easily one of the most interesting summer stints for any NCAA student-athlete.

    "Today, we are going to learn pronouns," I announce to the students before me.

    It's my first time teaching at the MOC, a special session about writing. I've got to admit, I'm a little nervous, but I go with what I know and relay all of the tips that I've picked up as a writer over the last few years. After forty-five minutes of tools to make our writing smoother- namely transitional words and pronouns- we break for lunch and I breathe a sigh of relief that I didn't freeze up and forget my lesson.

    When lunch ends, I grab a notebook and pen and begin the 15-minute trek up the road through Musanze for a little learning of my own. Tucked away in a small row of buildings off the main road in Musanze is a 10×10 room filled with vibrant paintings and intricate sculptures. A zebra with brilliant black and white stripes and an oversized portrait of Paul Kagame in front of the Rwandan flag are just two of a dozen pieces that cover the walls, while sand-colored sculptures that swirl upward from the floor are all over the ground. The room is called 'Volcanoes Arts' and serves as a studio and shop for local artists Jean Pierre (John Peter) Masambuko and Jean d'amour (John of Love) Ntihemuka. It also serves as my own personal Kinyarwanda training center.

    The first time I met Masambuko and Ntihemuka was by chance on a morning walk down the road. When Masambuko and I ran into each other and realized we shared a mutual enthusiasm for learning the other's culture, we bonded instantly. His English is above average and my Kinyarwanda is sub-par; it's a match made in heaven.

    Continue reading at Kristin's Rhythms of Rwanda blog!

    The Heart of Northwestern Softball

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    Editor's Note: The original version of this blog was submitted for publication in Softball Magazine. It is reprinted here today in honor of Northwestern's Senior Weekend, which begins at 2 p.m. CT Friday, May 11, 2012, against Illinois at Sharon J. Drysdale Field. The three member senior class will be honored prior to Saturday's 1 p.m. CT series finale.


    As soon as Adrienne Monka was old enough to attend preschool, her mother excitedly dressed her up with a bow in her hair and sent her off.

    At the end of the day, when she arrived to pick her daughter up, Elba Monka found that her preciously placed bow was gone from Adrienne's head and instead, lay in her cubby. When the preschooler explained that it had simply fallen off, her mother thought nothing of it and sent her back the next day with the bow firmly fastened atop her head. Come pick-up time, however, it was again found lying lonely in the cubby.

    A Wildcat's Inspiration: The Tanouye Family Legacy

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    Editor's Note: In honor of Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month, is proud to present the story of Isao Tanouye and his family. Isao is the grandfather of Northwestern sophomore softball standout Marisa Bast and the brother of Ted Tanouye, a World War II Distinguished Service Cross and, posthumously, Medal of Honor recipient. As told by Special Contributor Skip Myslenski, this story begins several generations ago and is an important chapter in the history of our country.

    Meet Katie Crandol: Northwestern's Inspirational 'Cat

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    Editor's Note: Northwestern will honor Katie Crandol prior to its noon CT first pitch Sunday, April 29, when it takes on Ohio State in a Big Ten doubleheader at Sharon J. Drysdale Field.

    The first time I met Katie Crandol, it was a sunny Saturday afternoon after our annual open practice. A 16-year-old cancer survivor and aspiring college softball player, Katie and her family had become the newest additions to our team through the Friends of Jaclyn program. As we shared a meal and exchanged stories about our season and their journey, it was apparent to each and every one of us that we were blessed with the opportunity to get know to someone with such a unique perspective on not only softball but also life itself.

    On Tuesday, March 20, after Northwestern softball run-ruled Massachusetts and Hartford during its Spring Break 2012 trip to Tampa and Clearwater, Fla., the Wildcats headed to George M. Steinbrenner Stadium to catch a New York Yankees spring training game and meet Yankees manager Joe Girardi.

    Out of Friendship Comes New Rivalry

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    If you know Michelle Batts, you know that she's one of the most outgoing, charismatic people you'll ever meet. She's the life of the party and thrives in social situations; and on the field, her bat talks just as loudly as her personality.

    If I could've somehow frozen that moment in between fly balls, I would've. That moment when I stood in centerfield and gazed around at the rest of my teammates scattered throughout the field in front of me. That moment when I could turn my head and see smiling fans to my right and smiling fans to my left, dozens decked out in purple and wearing the same logo across their chest as was across mine.

    Meet Tyler Jorgensen!

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    Hey 'Cats fans! This week I got to sit down with Assistant Director of Sports Performance Tyler Jorgensen, the newest addition to our sports performance team and Northwestern Softball's personal coach! We've already had three great weeks of work with Tyler and are looking forward to what we will accomplish with him over the next year!

    We have a new group of National Pro Fastpitch Champions.


    And former Wildcats Robin Thompson and Tammy Williams are among the heralded.


    On Sunday, Aug. 21, the Chicago Bandits beat the USSSA Florida Pride 10-3 in the second game of a best-of-three series to win their second postseason title in franchise history. Williams went 1-for-4 at the plate and scored a run, while Thompson also scored after being inserted into the game to pinch run. Former Northwestern softball coach Lauren Lappin also played second base in the game for the Pride squad.