Leopard realizes her dream
By FRANK PASTOR
It started as a fanciful dream in the mind of a fourth-grader playing on her first YMCA team.
It was sustained through eight years of youth, middle school, high school and Junior Olympic competition.
It was nurtured through hours hitting off a tee in her parents' garage, fielding ground balls in the street, running, lifting weights, Tae Bo, "whatever I can do to give me an edge over someone else," Hernando senior Kimi Olmstead said.
The years and work paid off. Olmstead's goal of playing college softball was realized when she signed with NCAA Division I Colgate this winter.
"It's an everyday thing where I'm out doing something," Olmstead said. "I'm just proud of myself that I've worked as hard as I have. It's really paid off."
Olmstead, 17, received a generous financial aid package, since the Patriot League school does not offer athletic scholarships.
She became the first Hernando player in coach Ernie Chatman's six seasons and possibly the first in program history to go directly from high school to a Division I program.
Brittany Bell, a 1997 Hernando graduate, spent two seasons at Pittsburgh after playing at Pasco-Hernando Community College.
"We definitely recruited her as an impact player," Colgate coach Vickie Sax said of Olmstead. "I definitely see her being an impact player from her freshman year on."
Sax said Olmstead's power and versatility caught her attention at the 2001 Colorado Fireworks Tournament -- an exposure camp in Aurora, near Denver.
The tourney was one of several Olmstead put on a list she sent to colleges her junior year, asking them to attend.
In October, she narrowed her choices to Holy Cross, Colgate, Stetson and West Florida. She verbally committed to Division II West Florida and planned to sign in November. But, because of an office mix-up, the papers never reached her.
"They said they still wanted me, but they kind of dropped the ball and I didn't hear from them," Olmstead said.
She contacted Sax to tell her she hadn't signed, and "it took off from there -- bang, bang, bang," Olmstead said.
She signed with Colgate without visiting the campus.
Instead, she called former Clearwater Bullets teammate Dorothy Donaldson, who plays for the Red Raiders. When Donaldson confirmed Olmstead's impressions, Olmstead committed to the Hamilton, N.Y., school.
"What really sold me on the school was the academics there," Olmstead said. "It's not softball, then school. It's school, then softball. I really like that because, after college, I'm not going to make big bucks playing softball."
Olmstead visited Colgate last weekend. She stayed with Donaldson and sat in on four classes.
"I was just in awe," Olmstead said. "The whole time, I was like, "I can't believe I'm coming here.' I know I made the right decision."
Olmstead, who has a 4.0 weighted grade-point average in college core courses, is considering studying psychology or law. But she said she wants to keep her options open.
That open-mindedness serves her on the field, too.
Sax said Olmstead -- a first-team Class 3A all-state selection as a sophomore -- could play shortstop, third base, first base, pitcher or a combination of them at Colgate.
She will start her senior season at first base while recovering from a shoulder injury.
Olmstead will spend her final summer before college playing with the Lady Bombers, a premier team in Clearwater.
Though it will be hard to leave her family, Olmstead will return to Florida in the spring, when Colgate plays in the Rebel Games in Orlando.
"It'll be an experience, but it's something I think I need to do," Olmstead said. "I think it'll make me a stronger person, and it's just something I really want to do."
Ever since the fourth grade.
-- Staff writer Frank Pastor can be reached at (800) 333-7505, ext. 1430. Send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The complete package
It took more than a powerful bat for Hernando senior Kimi Olmstead to get into Colgate. Here is a sampling of her academic and athletic achievements:
CORE COURSE GPA: 4.0 (weighted).
UNWEIGHTED CUMULATIVE GPA: 3.6.
CLASS RANK: 20/268.
HONORS: Superintendent's List, Academic All-Conference Award.
Three-year starter, two-year varsity captain, first-team Class 3A All-State (2000), first-team Times All-Suncoast (2000, 2001), three-time All-Gulf Coast Athletic Conference selection.
National Honor Society, National Spanish Honor Society, Future Business Leaders of America, Senior Class Treasurer, Class of 2002 Club, Beta Club.
Softball camp instructor, teaching at Moton Elementary, Jerome Brown Center.
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