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North player finds her own path

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Grayson Harney will be playing softball at Indiana Tech in Ft. Wayne this coming fall.
Grayson Harney will be playing softball at Indiana Tech in Ft. Wayne this coming fall.

When high-profile high school athletes around the country sign their letters of intent in the coming days, Grayson Harney’s name won’t be mentioned on ESPN.

Harney, a senior at Columbus North High School, didn’t even start for the Bull Dogs’ varsity last season.

But Harney’s hard work and perseverance has paid off, another example of opportunities that exist for high school students even if they haven’t reached elite status. Harney said she will sign Saturday to receive athletic scholarship money from Indiana Institute of Technology to play NAIA softball.

North assistant softball coach Crystal Lucas said she is not surprised Harney received a scholarship.

“Absolutely not,” Lucas said. “I’ve coached her since she was 6 years old. She has worked hard her whole life, and she is a dedicated young lady. I am tickled for her. It has not been an easy road and she has continued to work hard. You have to take your hat off to her.”

A season ago, Harney admitted she was worried that her work on the mound might not be noticed. Although she has enjoyed pitching success on the travel ball level of softball (with The Rage of Center Grove), she has no varsity level experience.

“I kind of felt that nobody would want me,” Harney said. “But I thought that as long as I kept up the good work, somebody might see me.”

Originally that somebody was Indiana Tech coach Rebecca Norris, who loved Harney’s knuckleball and her work ethic. Norris tried to get Harney to commit a year ago; however, Harney wanted to major in marine biology. She was looking into attending college in Florida, and she told Norris she was going to explore other opportunities.

After visiting colleges in Florida, Harney had a change of heart about her future career, but Norris had left Indiana Tech to take the coaching job at Cleveland State. Her replacement was Jessica Harris.

“Last year, I just didn’t think it was the right college for me,” Harney said. “But now they have a different coach (Harris), and she was very interested in me. She hasn’t even seen me play, but she saw all the notes from the previous coach. She said she would take a chance on me. And I liked the way (Harris) talked about her team and the way she runs it. She said her team is all family.”

Interested in criminal justice and fashion marketing, both programs offered at Indiana Tech, Harney decided to give the school a try.

“I’ve been kind of nervous because I knew I had to make a decision and I want it to be the right one,” Harney said.

Harney, 17, also was invited to visit the Manchester College campus to play softball, but she said it wasn’t the right fit for her.

Things appear to be fitting her better at Columbus North as well.

“I expect her to start for us, probably in the outfield,” said North head coach Jerry Burton. “She has worked hard and has come a long ways. She needs to have high goals for us.”

Burton said North remains stacked in his pitching corps, so he isn’t sure what role Harney might play on the mound.

Although Harney would love to pitch for the Bull Dogs, she is elated that she has the opportunity to play a key varsity role.

“As long as I am playing, that’s all that matters,” she said.

Lucas said she expects Harney to have success on the mound in college.

“Grayson is a nice pitcher, and she moves the ball around well,” Lucas said. “The knuckleball is probably her best pitch and, in softball, you don’t see that very often.

“Sometimes she gets hit just because she doesn’t have the speed.”

Harney said she has worked hard to improve that speed, and she reaches the high 50-miles-per-hour range now.

But Lucas also expects Harney, who is 5-foot-3, to be a solid player for North in the outfield.

“Grayson has the potential to have a really big bat. She packs that punch. We need her to be more consistent, though.”

Harney can’t wait to get a chance.

“I feel very confident,” she said. “My sister, Cortney Pettit, has been training me. When I don’t want to go to the gym, she gives me this look, like ‘Why aren’t you doing this.’ Then I go.

“It’s amazing, just having confidence and believing in yourself. I have kept pushing to prove to myself that I could do it.”

Burton said it has been an impressive effort.

“She has put a lot of effort into it and never has lost sight of her dream,” he said.

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