Female Athlete of the Year: Strong finish – Thorpe closes career on medal stand

By Richard Greene | Published Saturday, July 1, 2017
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Stepping into the ring for her final throw of her high school athletic career, Lindsey Thorpe felt a swell of adrenaline.

Four years in the spotlight on the basketball court, softball field and in the shot put ring led up to this moment at Mike Myers Stadium. Mere inches separated her from a state medal and the crowning achievement of her athletic career.

Boyd’s Lindsey Thorpe. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

“It was nerves and adrenaline at the same time,” Thorpe recalled. “I’m either going to get this done or not get it done and I don’t get to walk up there [to the medal stand]. I don’t have another chance at this.”

Powering her way across the ring, Thorpe exploded out of her crouch and hurled the metal sphere through the Austin sky. When the weighted shot put eventually landed just across the white line marking the 40-foot line, Thorpe had claimed the 3A bronze medal.

Her coach Eden Sultemeir, who often teased Thorpe about her flair for dramatics and saving her best for last, tried to fight back the tears after the shot put came to rest.

“Your heart just stops for a second. I couldn’t stop crying,” Sultemeir said. “She’s such a good-hearted kid, who worked so hard. What a better way to go out.”

The bronze-medal performance on top of All-Wise seasons on the basketball court as one of the county’s top forwards and a breakout season as a power-hitting center fielder in softball made Thorpe this year’s choice for Wise County Female Athlete of the Year.

“It was a surprise. It’s a big stepping stone to come this far and accomplish this,” Thorpe said. “I’ve accomplished a lot this year. This is at the top of the list.”

The tall, powerful Thorpe splashed on the scene her freshman year, helping the Lady Yellowjackets to the basketball playoffs as a raw forward on a team with strong outside shooting.

Each season she took steps forward, increasing her scoring. She averaged 10.8 as a sophomore and then 17 as a junior.

During her career she struggled to find continuity, playing for four different coaches – Lynn Cranfill, Brandon Hopkins, Cody Vanover and Erica Warner.

“A lot of different things to juggle. You have to change a lot of things. You have to change your game and the way you look at things,” Thorpe said.

For an admittedly headstrong Thorpe that wasn’t always easy. Early in her career, the headstrong attitude allowed her to compete with older players.

“Being young and being on the varsity basketball team and being around all these juniors and seniors you had to have the mindset that I can be just as good as them,” Thorpe said.

During her junior season, working with Warner, she began adapting her approach to the game. An upset of Bowie turned her mindset.

“Her junior year, she thought it was her time. When we beat Bowie, I showed her how a great team can play around her,” Warner said.

“Going into her senior year, she became very coachable. She’s always been a hard worker and dedicated athlete.”

Her senior season, Thorpe averaged a career-best 18 points with 9.2 rebounds. The Lady Yellowjackets finished 11-20 and out of the playoffs in a tough 8-4A.

“It was a season to learn for the younger girls,” Thorpe said. “We had a lot of different things to overcome. We had some people out. It was always a thing; if there was one more quarter; if we could get just a little more time. I never lost faith in my team.”

Junior Jules Tullos praised Thorpe’s leadership with a young team.

“On the basketball court and during halftime, she picked us up and tried to keep us on track,” Tullos said. “She was always encouraging.”

Basketball is Thorpe’s first love. She signed with Paris Junior College to continue her career in the fall.

But a competitive Thorpe could not sit idle during the offseason. She put that competitive desire to use in softball and track. She believed it was important for her to contribute to as many teams as possible.

“It’s so much better than sitting around and training for one thing,” Thorpe said. “You can go out and help other teams and be a leader somewhere else. That has helped me a lot to step up and have to be a leader in every sport I do play. It’s hard sometimes, too.”

Before arriving at Boyd in the sixth grade, Thorpe had not played softball. Throughout high school, she developed as a hitter and outfielder. This past year, she became the Lady Yellowjackets’ starting center fielder, showing off her strong arm and quickness. She had just one error in 43 chances and turned in seven assists.

At the plate, she batted .350 with four home runs and drove in 22 runs.

“She realized her ability,” said Boyd coach Brandon Hopkins. “She’s such a natural athlete. She had the best outfield arm in the district and she’s deceptively fast for her size. At the plate, she could have been a four to five hole hitter.

“I think she could’ve been a college softball player if she wanted to be.”

The Lady Yellowjackets made a late-season run to make the playoffs. In the bi-district series, Thorpe belted a home run in game one to help the Lady Yellowjackets win the game. Boyd ended up capturing the bi-district series over Breckenridge.

The season ended in the next round, leaving her to close her career with her first state appearance in track.

In her sophomore and junior years, Thorpe finished third at regionals in the shot put, narrowly missing out on a spot at state.

“You get to stand on the medal stand but not go anywhere. It’s kind of sad,” Thorpe said.

“I told Coach Sultemeir that I’m not getting third again this year at regionals.”

Thorpe won her third district title and an area crown to earn a fourth trip to regionals in the shot put. In the unfamiliar Region I meet, Thorpe fought her nerves through prelims.

“It started rough,” Thorpe said. “I was doing everything right, but my nerves were getting the best of me. I was throwing against all these different people in a new region. I knew if I went out and did my best I could make it.”

Sultemeir and girls coordinator Dusty Crafton noticed that Thorpe was not her perky self.

“She was so tense and in her head,” Sultemeir said. “She was too focused. She’s better when she’s in her element, bubbly. We made her relax.”

On her next to last throw she moved into second with a toss of 38-11. She broke her school record and cemented the trip to state with a throw of 40-0.25 on her final toss.

Walking into Mike Myers Stadium in Austin for the state championships, Thorpe was overwhelmed by the surroundings.

“I hope every person in love with track gets to experience that. It’s the most nerve-racking but awesome thing you can do,” Thorpe said. “You look up in the stands and there’s all these people and they are watching you. I told Coach Salty that I’m a little scared.”

It didn’t show. Thorpe put herself in medal contention with a throw of 39-9.25 on her fourth toss. She was in third until Arp’s Briana Medlock bested her with a toss of 39-9.5 just before Thorpe’s final throw.

Before stepping into the ring, Sultemeir offered a few words of encouragement.

“This is it. You set the standard for Boyd,” Sultemeir recalled. “This is everything you’ve worked for.”

Thorpe then unleashed the best throw of her career of 40-10.5 to lock up the medal.

“I did a little skip and hop out of the back of the ring. It was amazing. It’s probably the best feeling you could ever have,” Thorpe said.

For her it was the perfect exclamation mark to her career and hopefully a legacy that will be remembered at Boyd.

“Everything I needed to accomplish, I got done. I don’t think I could have done anything that was better,” Thorpe said.

“I hope I’ve left [a legacy] that tells people to play multiple sports, do all you can do and help other teams. Even if you aren’t the best, there’s some way you can help the team. You can be a person that pushes another to be their best. And love what you do. You have to have heart.”

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