By Tim Chambers
You don’t have to look hard when trying to come up with another senior Lady Longhorns to fill this week’s senior spotlight athlete. Natalie Winters has been putting the bat on the ball since age five when she started out as a T-Ball player in the Johnson County Youth League. She talked about how her dad Nathan would take her to the high school games, and she admired watching them and always wanted to be a Lady Longhorn. She takes pride in representing her high school.
“I take pride in representing my school and being the best athlete that I can possible is,” said Winters. “I want to have a good name among our younger kids and for them to look up to me. I want to be a role model for them to look up to. I know I looked up to them when I was young,” Winters added. “Hopefully, they’ll aspire to be the captain of their team, the starting point guard, or start as a freshman on the softball team like I was fortunate to do. I took pride in those things, and I think a lot of younger kids feel the same way now that I did then back in my youth days. We went into this year having high expectations, so I didn’t realize how much this sport meant to me until it got taken away. It’s been knowing what kind of potential this team had and the high we were on after defeating Sullivan East. We hadn’t beaten East in years, and our confidence level just ballooned up. It was a huge letdown when we got the news that our games were canceled.”
As for further adjustments, Winters emphasized that the team continued to practice as a group without the coaches when the city parks were open.
“We worked out on our own because that’s how close-knit this squad is,” she said. “We seniors tried to get together, hoping to keep this team together. We were just trying to hold on. We hold each other accountable, talking on the phone and such.”
Winters was a standout on the basketball team being named to the All Carter/Johnson County team averaging nearly five assists per contest. Last year she hit .402 as a junior as the leadoff batter. Winters is athletic enough to play multiple positions on the field, including catcher when needed. That makes her an ideal prospect to play softball at the next level after graduation.
“If the opportunity came, I would love to take it,” said Winters. “I sort of lost my hope for it without playing my senior season. It would mean the world to me to get a chance to continue. We’re ready to get back into softball guns blazing. I don’t think we would need more than a day to get back to where we were. I trust in my teammates.”
Unlike most athletes, Winters loves school and is missing the everyday life of seeing her friends walk the halls inside of Johnson County High School.”
“I enjoy walking through the hallways each day at school, seeing my friends, added Winters. “We never got to prepare for this at all. We had no way of knowing when they told us that we wouldn’t be coming back to school for a month that it might be our last day ever there. It’s hard for a teenager to understand that. It just breaks my heart that we didn’t have time to prepare for it. I’m not sure had we had the time that we could have prepared for what was in store. It just came out of the blue all of a sudden. It hit us like a bombshell. Not only did it take school, but sports and church life too. It’s robbed us of the things we love doing, but I know we all have to be safe.”
Winters came up with some eye-popping ideals when talking about the things they missed out on as seniors.
“We can still create memories,” she said. “Do a senior prom at your house. Play music, get dressed up and dance. The situation could be a whole lot worse than what
it is. Let’s make the most of it.”
The team captain said she would never forget the memories that her teammates made during basketball seasons. She takes pride in wearing the maroon and white uniform.
‘I take pride in representing my school and being the best athlete that I can possibly be. I want to have a good name among our younger kids and be someone they can look up to. I want to be a role model for them to go by.
Hopefully, they’ll aspire to be the captain of their team, the starting point guard, or start as a freshman on the softball team one day. I took pride in those things, and I think a lot of younger kids feel the same way now that I did in my youth days.”
Getting back to basketball, she said it was something they hated to see the end. Winters knows they played as hard as they could hope to change the image up here. It’s the little things she remembered most.
“I loved it when we would go out to eat before the basketball games on game day. We would be singing in the car, and it was like a movie you never wanted to see the end. I will never forget the closeness we had. We went from being the laughing stock in the league to a program that teams really respected.”
Winters hopes her class will leave a legacy. “We want to be the best senior athletes to ever come through Johnson County. We wanted to change the image of Lady Longhorn’s athletics.”
Natalie Winters smacks a two-run base hit against Ashe County in a 9-8 win earlier this year. She’s hoping they can finish their senior season. Photo by Joey Icenhour