Katie Henderson on Friday became the first athlete from Silverdale Baptist Academy to sign scholarship papers with an NCAA Division I school when she fulfilled a pledge she made last December and signed to play softball at Kentucky.
She first visited the campus in Lexington at the end of November a year ago.
"I really loved the campus, and the coaches were great, too," Henderson said. "I love that they put an emphasis on sports and academics and want us to work hard. They're really big about work ethic and trying to get better."
Chip Liner, who retired as the Lady Seahawks' softball coach at the end of last season, said effort won't be an issue for Henderson.
"She was a quiet leader on the team and has a very good work ethic," Liner said. "She's used to working hard and expects others to also work hard. I feel very fortunate the last couple of years to have coached someone of Katie's caliber."
Last spring was Henderson's first full season at Silverdale. She totaled 104 strikeouts in 87 innings pitched and also batted .397 with three home runs, 15 doubles and 22 RBIs.
Henderson played her freshman year at Boyd-Buchanan. She had to sit out her sophomore season after transferring but became eligible after Silverdale moved on to postseason play, although she was dealing with a lengthy recovery from a hand injury.
Liner said it also took Henderson some time getting acclimated to her new surroundings at school, but once she did she grew significantly. He said that was illustrated by the number of friends who attended her signing who are not softball players.
"I really hope and pray that now that she's a senior and she's signed and the pressure is off that she'll be able to relax and enjoy a high school season," Liner said.
Henderson said she plans to major in nursing or physical therapy.
Kelley Smiddie is a sports writer who has worked at the Times Free Press for 12 years. He covers high school sports and softball. Kelley’s hometown is Chattanooga, and he graduated from Brainerd High School and graduated Chattanooga State and UTC. Contact Kelley at 423-757-6653 or firstname.lastname@example.org.