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"It's going to be really tough," said Bellmont grad Dana Kaczmarek on letting go of the competitive athletic career.
"I cried more the last day at softball ... more than at graduation," said the 2011 Phyllis Hebble Award winner. The Hebble Award, named in honor of the first Bellmont girls coach in about every sport, goes to the outstanding female athlete at Bellmont.
"I've played softball my whole life, basketball too. It's going to be tough not playing anything next year," noted the future pharmacy major at Purdue University. "I'm going to focus on my major."
And, when Dana Kaczmarek, the daughter of Dan and Rhonda Kaczmarek, puts her focus on something ... well, it's always turned out well.
"Dana was a terrific softball player and a great student at Bellmont. I'd bet the farm that she'd be very successful in pharmacy, or whatever she does," praised Dana's long time softball coach Rick Burkhalter.
"She's just a great kid. She grew up with my daughter (Brieann). I'm proud of her and all she has accomplished," added her high school softball coach.
Though Kaczmarek was named first team All-NHC in basketball, scoring 11 points a game this past season, and she was named second team catcher on the All-NHC squad this past spring, there's a lot more to the young lady than jump shots and blocking errant pitches.
Dana was Silver Arrow queen. She was vice-president of the Bellmont chapter of the National Honor Society. She finished among the top 10 in her class, in G.P.A. that is. She was given honorable-mention on the Academic All-State Girls Softball team.
"With the tough courses she took, and her grades ... well, it was one heck of an accomplishment, and I don't know what someone has to do to be first team Academic All-State," said Burkhalter.
There are some impressive numbers when it comes to Dana Kaczmarek. She won eight letters at BHS: four in softball, three in basketball and one in soccer, this past fall. She also played two years of volleyball.
She slugged seven home runs in her career at Bellmont, batted .365, hit five triples, 10 doubles and this past year drove in 19 runs. She missed out on first team status as NHC catcher by the smallest of margins to the Homestead catcher, who not only set the career mark for home runs there, but beat Bellmont with a ninth-inning homer this past spring.
Kaczmarek had three difference varsity softball coaches, and was on two Final Four softball teams, and four sectional-winning squads at BHS.
"I drafted Dana as a little girl about nine years old. That's about when Brieann started pitching. Dana was the only catcher she ever had. And Dana called every pitch this past season. She played solid ball game after game," said Coach Burkhalter.
"She was our team captain and at the end of this past season she was there to lead us to another sectional title."
Dana enjoyed her softball success. "Every time I hit a home run in softball, it was a happy day," said Kaczmarek. "Catching was my favorite position. I was in every play and I got to call every single pitch, and I did it basically from the sixth grade on. My knees didn't enjoy it, but I did. It would get hot back there, but it was worth it."
Though Kaczmarek was born after Phyllis Hebble finished her coaching career at Bellmont, she knows the significance of the award, and a solid class of competitors.
"I'm very honored (to get the award)," said Dana. "The quality of girls I was competing with made me realize that I did have a good high school career, and I'm thankful for that. And Mrs. Hebble came to our graduation and I got to talk to her."
In Kaczmarek's class were: three-time All-State volleyball player Alex Fuelling, soccer and track standout Jessica Brewer, volleyball standout Chelsea Colclasure, volleyball and basketball star Madi Schultz, and all-around standout Sara Williamson.
Dana lauded a few of her favorite teachers. "My government teacher, Mr. (Jeff) Schueler, was a favorite, as was Mr. (Kent) Arnold. I had him for two years of calculus and he was an awesome teacher. Mrs. (Kathy) Baker was a fun geometry teacher, and she's my neighbor," stated Dana.
Dana feels that her athletics definitely kept her busy. "My freshman year (summer) I had to right a bike to basketball practice in the morning, and my parents didn't like me missing any, so I was at all of them. It was very tiring. Then on the weekends there were softball tournaments. I'd get up at 6 o'clock on Saturday morning and just go. But it was all worth it. I got the experience and just kept getting better," said Kaczmarek.
Dana, the freshman to be, will likely represent her new team, Windsor Hall, in intramural play at Purdue. There's no doubt, Windsor Hall will be well represented.