South Tahoe softball athlete earns scholarship to play at South Dakota State University
South Tahoe High senior athlete Kendra Conard’s softball playing has taken her all over the place. And the pitcher’s journey will continue this fall, but on a much larger stage.
Years of dedication and a genuine love for the game are two of the main elements that led to Conard being awarded an athletic scholarship to play softball for the South Dakota State University Jackrabbits.
According to Conard, she’s been involved with softball for over a decade and her search for an area that would improve her playing led her to South Lake Tahoe. “I started playing tee-ball when I was about 5 years old,” said Conard. “Then I joined some traveling all-star teams when I got older. I’ve played for a lot of travel ball teams, but the recruiting process wasn’t that great down south where I was located so we moved up north…”
Conard said not long after she moved she began playing for travel teams in Reno and Sacramento in order to help up her game and get more exposure as an athlete. Playing at the college-level is something Conard says she’s had an interest in, even before reaching high school.
“I was playing in a rec league when I was 8 and our coach would take us to San Diego, which was north from where I lived, and we would watch college ball games,” said Conard. “It was a really cool experience. Then I realized it was a possibility that I actually could be playing college ball.”
Conard explained that once she started getting involved with the recruiting process, forming connections with teams and making skills videos, she began to get noticed as a standout athlete.
As it turns out, it was one of her skills videos that caught the attention of the recruiters at SDSU. “They actually found me by watching my video on YouTube … ” said Conard. “We had an hour and a half conversation on the phone and talked about the campus, their family, my family, everything. We really connected.”
Although some other schools were showing interest, Conard said this connection and the warm welcome she received upon her visit to SDSU really helped her make the decision to attend.
Conard said that her time as a high school athlete at South Tahoe helped her learn the game more and learn to be the best athlete and teammate possible. “I really learned to take control of the game and lead the team to success,” she said. “I’ve learned to take my skills on to the field, not only for myself, but for my teammates as well,” she said.
South Tahoe head softball coach Eric Owens said Conard’s hard work has made her a tremendous athlete to coach and an invaluable member of the Viking’s softball team.
“They say that champions don’t show up to get everything they want, but to give everything they have,” said Owens. “Kendra does that both on and off the field. You can clearly see the hard work she puts in, day in day out, and her path to success will continue to be paved.”
As far as on the field goes, Conard’s record speaks for itself. In her defensive career as a varsity athlete, Conard recorded 616 strikeouts and finished with a 1.93 overall ERA. Her 2016-17 pitching ERA was a record-low at 0.84.
Conard isn’t just an ace on the mound, she can bat just as well as she can throw strikes. She has a career batting average of .650, managing 158 hits, 129 runs and 164 RBIs. Conard also recorded her personal best in the home run department this year. She had 10 this season and 29 overall.
This success didn’t come without putting in the time, though.
“I put in extra time on the field, other than practices,” said Conard. “And I go down to Sacramento every Sunday to do five hour practices.” Conard also puts in time with a pitching coach twice a month and practices anything from fielding, footwork and game management in her spare time. According to Conard, she should be focusing her efforts at pitcher for SDSU.
Conard will finish her high school career on a high academic note as well.
“She’s our [Associated Student Body] president as well and she carries that torch with her everywhere she goes,” said Pat Harnett, South Tahoe athletic director and vice principal. “She has the best interest of her school and her team at the forefront of every turn.” Conard is also a student representative for South Tahoe High School and Lake Tahoe Unified School District. Conard currently plans to major in biology.
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