At an average of 55 mph, Maddie Millwood's fastball could beat even a quick-hoofed gazelle in a race from the pitcher's mound to the catcher's mitt.
HER CLAIM TO FAME
In 2009, Maddie Millwood, 11, and her team, the Frost Falcons, won the U.S. Fastpitch Association World Series tournament in Panama City, Fla. In 2011, they played in the Amateur Softball Association of America Nationals, placing fifth. Maddie received her varsity letter at Loftis Middle School as a sixth-grader and this year was named to the Hamilton County Middle School All Star Softball Team.
* School: Sixth-grader at Loftis Middle.
* Favorite movies: "Soul Surfer" and the "Twilight" series.
* Athletic idol: Dot Richardson.
* Pets: A dog, Snooky.
* Person she'd like to meet: The Arizona Wildcats.
* Place she'd like to visit: Hawaii.
* Pitching speed: 55 mph.
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For the last three years, Maddie, 11, has put her arm to good use as a pitcher for her softball team, Fury 2000. In late July, Fury was the first team in Tennessee to qualify for the 2011 Amateur Softball Association of America Nationals in Johnson City, Tenn.
Although she didn't begin playing softball until she was 4, Maddie has been around the sport practically since she was born. When Maddie was just 2 weeks old, her mother, Danette Everett, would take her to the ballpark, where Maddie's older sister, Samantha Everett, 21, played shortstop for a Fury team.
"When my sister was on deck, I would put my hands through the fence, and she would come over and touch it," Maddie said, a smile crinkling her freckled face. "It's just something I love. It's exciting just getting to go out there."
Danette Everett said her daughter's involvement in softball was almost a foregone conclusion given the family's passion for the sport.
"Her first word was 'ball,' not 'mom' or 'dad,'" she said, laughing. "We're a softball family; it's almost like we don't know anything else."
Maddie grew up inspired by watching her older sister take the field every weekend, eventually earning a scholarship to play for Tennessee Tech University, where she is a senior. Despite following in her sister's wake, Maddie's accomplishments on the mound have begun to frame an athletic identity all her own.
From 2008 to 2009, she played with another Chattanooga team, the Frost Falcons, who in 2009 won the U.S. Fastpitch Association World Series tournament in Panama City, Fla.
Maddie began taking pitching lessons at age 6 but didn't take the mound competitively until she turned 8 and graduated to player-pitch games. In 2010, she pitched her first game and ever since, she said, she's loved the position and the associated sense of responsibility that accompanies it.
"It feels like I'm a leader on the team," she said. "I enjoy that because you get your team pumped up if they're down and stuff."
From July 31 to Aug. 7, Maddie and her Fury teammates competed in the Amateur Softball Association of America National Championships in Johnson City. They tied for fifth place.
As a sixth-grader, Maddie was named to the Hamilton County Middle School All Star Softball Team and already has earned her varsity letter for softball at Loftis Middle School.
That Maddie has achieved so much at such a young age is no surprise to her sister, who said Maddie has been winding up pitches -- and knocking things over around the house -- since she was able to walk.
"She works hard at what she does and truly loves it," said Samantha Everett. "You could tell that she was born to be an athlete and to succeed. She's good at what she does."
After working with her for the last three years, Jeremy Higdon, associate director of Fury Fastpitch Academy in Rossville, said Maddie's skills exceed many of her peers.
"I've coached more than 20 current and former Division I college pitchers, including several high school and collegiate all-Americans, and Maddie is one of the most physically gifted pitchers I have ever worked with," Higdon wrote in an email. "I look forward to seeing what the future holds for Maddie and hope to continue [having] the privilege of being a part of it."