As one of the kindest people in the known universe walked toward her, Jen Madsen wished she could hide.
Next thing Madsen knew, Steve Llewellyn was triple-jumping in her direction.
Llewellyn’s inference was clear: Madsen belonged with the University girls track and field team he coaches, and not with softball.
“I felt so guilty,” said Madsen, whose loyalties were torn during this, her junior year at U-Hi.
On one side of the good-natured tug-of-war was Llewellyn, who witnessed Madsen’s jumping talents during two regional-qualifying seasons.
On the other side were U-Hi softball coach Ken VanSickle, Madsen’s family, and the most persuasive presence, Madsen’s conscience.
Softball won out, Madsen said, because an inner voice told her that jumping might interfere with her favorite sport, volleyball.
“I got shin splints from jumps, and I wanted to stay healthy for volleyball,” said Madsen, a vital reason the Titans went unbeaten to repeat as GSL softball champs.
Madsen faced no dilemma during her freshman year because ninth-graders can compete in track at U-Hi but not softball. Last season, sister Elizabeth’s senior year, Madsen stuck with track.
“Steve Llewellyn had set goals for her and she wanted to try to continue with those goals,” said VanSickle, whose ‘96 lineup was loaded with talented seniors anyway.
But the Madsens are a softball family, starting with the summer team parents David and Tricia coached for several seasons. Elizabeth, who used every opportunity to preach softball to little sis, would report back to VanSickle, “I’m working on her, coach, I’m working on her.”
All of the factors pointed toward softball, but Madsen still felt she let down Llewellyn.
Llewellyn, not known for holding a grudge, has nonetheless reminded VanSickle that Madsen’s appearance in a Titans track uniform would likely have meant the difference in a one-point loss to Lewis and Clark and a tie with Central Valley. In other words, the 4-3-1 Titans would probably have been 6-2 with Madsen.
But the softball Titans are 20-0 overall (16-0 in league) heading into the District 8-AAA tournament, which begins today at Franklin Park with a pair of loser-out games. U-Hi is guaranteed a spot in the Region IV-AAA tournament at Moses Lake.
Madsen had played first base, pitcher and catcher with her parents’ summer teams, but VanSickle told her she was a “grass eater” and sent her to left field.
Madsen, accustomed to batting leadoff, began the season at No. 8. Then leadoff hitter Kelly Pierce broke her left wrist against Ferris, so VanSickle shuffled his lineup.
“He told me during first period (at school) I would be leadoff,” Madsen said. “I worried about it all day.”
Worried for no reason, it turns out. Madsen finished the GSL season 27 of 54 (.500), with 21 runs and 16 stolen bases. U-Hi’s Stephanie Shelton set the league record of 17 stolen bases in 1995.
David Madsen told his daughter about the stolen-base record, which Jen considered an attainable goal from game one.
“The thing about Jen,” VanSickle said, “is she’s 6-foot, maybe 6-1, so to look at her you wouldn’t think she’d be that fast.”
Madsen made a living off swiping third on delayed steals. She estimates half her steals came that way.
Pierce’s cast is off, so U-Hi, with a lineup full of juniors, may soon have an added threat to its lineup. Cheryl Andrizzi (16-0) pitched seven shutouts in the GSL and U-Hi’s defense held tough during four one-run games.
As for Madsen and track?
“I’m not going back,” she said.
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