By Greg Ritchie
LATEXO – Latexo Independent School District (LISD) Senior Natalie Nicol received word of her acceptance to elite university Wellesley College to play softball next year, after graduation. Natalie is the daughter of Kelly and Toni Nicol, publishers of The Messenger.
Nicol has been a standout in softball, playing for the last seven years both as a Lady Tiger and on several travel teams, such as two-time state champion Fireballs, Nitro, Fastpitch and Texas Glory. She is on the math team and is always amongst the top LISD students in terms of grades and accolades.
Nicol said receiving her education in a small town suited her fine, noting Latexo schools were a perfect place to play, study, learn and get prepared for a top school such as Wellesley.
“Latexo gave me everything I needed. I think I couldn’t have gotten anything else from a bigger school to set me up for success,” Nicol said.
Ranked by some in the top 15 of U.S. universities, Wellesley is an all female elite school which only accepts about 16% of applicants each year. The school is located on 500 acres in an area surrounded by forests and lakes, in Wellesley, Massachusetts. The school prides itself on both its overall academic programs and small class sizes, usually about 15 students per class. The school has produced more than its fair share of notable ladies over the years, including Hillary Clinton, Madeleine Albright, Cokie Roberts and Diane Sawyer, among others.
Nicol plays centerfield, in part due to the fact most of her teammates began playing at very young ages, whereas she was a little bit of a latecomer to softball.
“All the infield positions were already taken, so when I started playing, the only place no one wanted to play was outfield, and I just made it my own,” Nicol said. “I love making really good plays like diving plays. Of course, everyone loves those highlight reel plays!”
Nicol said playing outfield becomes more challenging each year, as the opponents get bigger and better.
“The higher you go in the sport, the more they hit it to the outfield, so it’s not as boring as one would think. But when our pitchers are as good as they are, we sometimes don’t get any action out there,” Nicol laughed.
Nicol plays many sports and trains hard, even in offseason. She said there was just something about softball she fell in love with, from the first few times she played the game.
Loving math, Nicol is enjoying physics her senior, enjoying the new maths of that particular science. Nicol and her family took their time to find the right university for her to continue her studies, meeting with interested coaches and spending time at various schools, before finally deciding Wellesley would be her new home for the next few years.
“I was looking for a smaller school because I come from a small-town background. I didn’t want to be just another number,” Nicol explained. “When I went to Wellesley, I absolutely fell in love. They have a square just like in Crockett and it just reminded me of home.”
Though the small-town atmosphere will help, was Nicol concerned about being so far away from home?
“I think it will come with its own set of challenges, but I also think it will have its benefits, as well. It will teach me a little bit about being on my own,” Nicol said. “Everyone I met was super nice. All the girls at Wellesley, specifically, were very kind. And that stuck out to me, too, because we do have our southern hospitality. So to go somewhere up north, I was glad to see everyone was very kind.”
The Wellesley softball coach impressed Nicol, too, having been at the school for the last 20 years, giving her the confidence in both the coach and the program.
“On my official visit in September, I was able to watch a practice and a scrimmage. I loved the way she coached – the authority she had over the entire program. You could tell everyone was very respectful toward her and she knew what she was talking about,” Nicol said.
Nicol had her doubts about a school in Massachusetts, an all-girls school, but after her visit and sitting in on several classes and interacting with the students, she was convinced.
“I loved being in the politics class because it was a lot more discussion-based. These girls were just talking, not afraid someone was going to speak over them. It was a very collaborative environment and very comfortable,” Nicol said.
Nicol still has some tough choices to make, pondering her eventual major, trying to choose between economics or finance, with a look to work in investment banking or corporate law.
Asked if she is afraid she might get contaminated by Massachusetts and lose some of her Houston-County-ness, Nicol left no room for worry.
“I already have a ‘Don’t Mess With Texas’ sign for my dorm room…they’d better be ready for me!”
Greg Ritchie can be reached at [email protected]