Sports

An incredible student-athlete duo

The running joke between Carolyn Cross and Erin Curtis: Curtis is always right when they disagree because she’s a Cross-proclaimed genius, but Cross never admits it because she’s a gritty, perhaps stubborn, competitor.

Friends since first grade and fastpitch teammates for the better part of a decade, Cross and Curtis are student-athlete anomalies.

“We have a lot of competitions — who’s right and who’s wrong. But somehow it’s fine,” Cross laughed, peeking toward her counterpart with a wry smile. “I usually defend the fact that I’m right even though I’m wrong and I know it. But I’ll never let her win.”

The recently graduated Central Kitsap High School duo shared valedictorian honors, each maintaining 4.0 grade point averages. Together they anchored the 2009 CK fastpitch team to its second state-tournament berth in as many years, securing the school’s first victory there since 2000.

For that, the dual classroom-diamond threats are the Central Kitsap Reporter’s Co-Female Student-Athletes of the Year.

Compromise.

“They don’t brag about being great student-athletes. But they are,” said CK fastpitch coach Bruce Welling, who’s known Cross, “KK,” for about five years and Curtis for three. “They are driven to do the best they can. They are very successful young ladies.”

Cross, who will attend Pomona College in California this fall, completed 13 Advanced Placement classes during her tenure at CK. She is interested in international affairs, government and politics and is contemplating law school. Keen on the idea of helping others, the right-handed pitcher is fascinated by other cultures and wants to see more of the world.

Curtis, meanwhile, is bound for Swarthmore College in Philadelphia, where she’s leaning toward medicine as her area of study. Like Cross, she is fascinated by foreign cultures and wants to help those who can’t help themselves. Her final AP-class tally

was 17.

“My ultimate goal is to work for a charity or a nonprofit, Doctors Without Borders, for example, overseas,” said Curtis, who started at second base, posting a .414 batting average and .713 on-base percentage. “Just help people who really need doctors. That’s kind of why I want to do it.”

“I think Erin and I are the same in that we want to help people. We both have that goal of helping others,” Cross added.

Welling remembered a day at practice when Cross and Curtis voluntarily helped a teammate who was struggling with biology homework. They each chipped in to help during breaks in the action until the teammate finished the assignment.

“They were more than willing to do it,” Welling said. “They are exceptional leaders.”

Their respective on-field stats are as staggering as their classroom achievements. In addition to her team-high batting average and on-base percentage, Curtis struck out one time the entire season and emerged as one of the team’s top gloves.

And Cross, in her senior season: 17-6 record in 141 2/3 innings, 132 strikeouts to 18 walks (seven were intentional) and 1,956 pitches thrown, 72 percent for strikes. She also hit .404.

“KK, since the inception of Central Kitsap fastpitch, is the best right-handed pitcher the school has had,” Welling said. “She was very focused, she knew the job she wanted to do — and needed to do — and she did it.

“There are faster pitchers, but speed doesn’t win. Her ability to throw strikes is unheard of around here. It was remarkable.”

Neither Cross nor Curtis plan to hang their cleats in college. Both have earned positions on their respective Division III fastpitch teams, although they agreed that fastpitch was a bonus rather than a prerequisite during the college-selection process.

Cross hopes to pitch, while Curtis could play outfield or middle infield.

“There’s so much more to learn out there,” Cross said. “Choosing classes is actually my favorite time of the year, which is kind of embarrassing.”

Between now and the first day of classes, the friends-turned-student-athlete-standouts are hoping to watch every episode of “Friends,” attend BlueJackets baseball games and spend time outdoors — together, of course. Cross is contemplating a Pomona exchange program that would allow her to study a semester at Swarthmore.

Their advice to up-and-coming student-athletes who are juggling academia and the sports arena:

“Work hard both on the field and in the classroom,” Curtis said. “It can be easy to focus only on your sport because you love it and it’s hard to shift focus away from that. But sometimes that’s what you have to do.”

“The dedication you’re using in the classroom will help you on the field,” Cross added. “Sometimes you need to know which one comes first ... but make time for both, because they are both really important.”

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