Mountain Pointe senior Grace Camblin refused to let anything stand in her way of receiving a scholarship to play collegiate softball.
When she was in eighth grade, just months before she was set to attend Mountain Pointe to begin her high school career, she had her right shoulder reconstructed. Even then, she made the varsity roster as a freshman.
As a senior in November, she had surgery to repair a torn ligament in her left wrist. In late January, when she was nearly cleared to compete again, she fell ill with a viral infection in her lungs. Doctors told her she was unable to play. But that wasn’t an option.
“I told my coach and I told my doctors to let me play,” said Camblin, who only missed one game because of the infection. “I told them, ‘I’m not going to die and I’m not going to pass out on the field. Let me play.’ That Maricopa tournament was the very first time I was able to play this season and it was a lot of fun.
“I wasn’t going to let anything stop me.”
Through all the adversity Camblin has battled through during her prep softball career for the Pride, none has been greater than that caused by COVID-19, which has shut down schools, sports and businesses all across the state, country and world.
But even that hasn’t stopped her.
Camblin, who was named first-team all-region catcher last season as a junior, signed her Celebratory Letter to St. Catherine University – also referred to as “St. Kate’s” – on Friday. A Division III school in Minnesota, St. Catherine is unable to give full athletic scholarships per NCAA guidelines, but has prospective athletes sign a Celebratory Letter, which is similar to a National Letter of Intent.
“I was really trying not to cry,” Camblin said of her signing. “It’s one of those really big reliefs. It’s not just me. Being an athlete, you have those moments where you want to quit. I had those days where I just thought I didn’t want to do this. But I knew, had I quit, I would regret it for the rest of my life.”
Camblin visited St. Catherine in February, which delayed her signing as she wasn’t able to do so with her teammates and other Mountain Pointe athletes. When she arrived on campus, she immediately felt as if it were home to her.
The coaching staff and other players immediately made her feel welcome. While on her visit, she even sat in on a class on campus. There, the professor and students invited her to join in on a project. That’s when she was sold on the idea of continuing her academic and athletic career there.
Before the visit Camblin admits she would have never found herself at St. Catherine, especially given other offers she had from college programs. Some of which were even at the Division I level. But even as she thought about other programs, she couldn’t help but always come back to St. Catherine. She knew it was the right fit for her and what she wanted to study.
“They’re such a highly-known academic institution and they were the only one that had the minor in coaching I want,” Camblin said. “That’s my one goal when I grow up, is to become a coach. A lot of it was the coach, the program and the overall experience of getting to be there.”
A self-proclaimed defensive specialist, Camblin worked tirelessly to improve her ability at the plate leading up to her senior season. She doesn’t always look for a home-run ball when up to bat. She remains content with giving her teammates an opportunity by just putting the ball in play.
Her desire to improve showed.
As a freshman, she batted .286 with 11 RBIs. Her average improved to .329 as a sophomore before taking a slight dip as a junior to .324 but batted in 14 runners, the highest of her prep career.
Only having the opportunity to play five games this season due to her illness, injury and eventually the cancellation of the season due to COVID-19, Camblin was already on pace for her best season at the plate with a .333 average. She also had a .962 fielding percentage along with 19 putouts in her shortened senior year, which still weighs heavy on her.
“This was a really big season for me,” Camblin said. “My mentality really changed this year. I was ecstatic with the way I was performing, and I wanted to really keep it going.”
Camblin hopes to once again get together with the girls on Mountain Pointe’s softball team before she leaves for St. Catherine. She also hopes some of her club softball season with the Arizona Hotshots can be salvaged in the summer.
In the meantime, she will often train with her best friend, Hailey Kaddatz, who graduated from Desert Vista in 2019 and now plays softball at Bryant & Stratton College in Wisconsin.
Camblin also trains with her father. The two will often do drills at a local park. It’s the perfect way for her to spend time with them before embarking on the next phase of her life as a collegiate athlete.
“Playing college softball was a promise I made to myself and a promise I made to my parents,” Camblin said. “This is what I want to do. This is where I know I belong. It feels really good.”