On her finger Holly Pennington wears a small, silver ring with sapphire heart, surrounded by tiny diamonds.
It was her grandmother’s ring, and Pennington, a rising sophomore at Williston State College, held back tears as she explained how the ring was her grandmother’s prized possession.
“She loved this ring and she was so excited for it and she would wear this all the time, every single day, wherever she went she would never take it off,” Pennington said. “She ended up passing away with it on and my grandpa knew that my grandma would’ve given it to me, so he gave it to me...it’s getting easier to talk about.”
Pennington moved in with her grandparents in Columbus, Montana for junior and senior year of high school, where they supported her as she lived out her life-long dream: playing softball.
“My grandparents were my biggest supporters. My biggest supporters,” Pennington said. “I was super, super close to my grandma. She was literally the number one person in my life. I would die for her. She was a really good person.”
But now as a member of the Teton Softball Team, Pennington said she knows that this time playing softball is bittersweet.
This will be the last time she plays softball.
A sense of uncertainty
Pennington is on scholarship to play for the team, but after the COVID-19 pandemic canceled her first season, she now hopes for another chance before she transfers and starts her life.
“I think the worst part for me is I know this is going to be the last year I play softball,” Pennington said. “I absolutely love softball but I’m starting my life...and I can’t play softball and work and do school all at the same time at a different college because I know a (four-year university) is going to be 10 times different than (a two-year college).”
WSC announced in early July that fall sports (volleyball) will be moved to spring and winter sports (womens’ and mens’ basketball) will start in January. There is no word yet on whether hockey will start at its usual time.
With this switch, however, it is still unknown whether spring athletes can still train in the fall. This is something Pennington said is worrisome, and after tearing a tendon and unsure about needing surgery, she said she and others like her just need answers.
“We’re just going with the flow right now and we are here for one reason and it’s to play softball and we can’t do anything about it and that’s just the worst part,” Pennington said. “We want so bad to play and we can’t and we don’t know what’s going to happen. It sucks, we just want answers.”
Pennington said she knows the current situation is no one’s fault, but despite fading optimism, she said she knows there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
After all, softball is her driving force.
A life-long dream
Pennington’s passion for softball started when she was four years old playing T-ball.
After that she was hooked and started playing softball soon after.
“Softball is what I wanted to do my entire life. Ever since I was a little girl, I have played softball every single year. Every year. From the moment that I had a ball in my hand, I knew this is what I (wanted) to do for the rest of my life,” Pennington said.
She joined travel teams and played through high school, all with support from her family, especially her grandparents.
After being offered a scholarship to play at WSC her senior year, she said she did not know if she wanted to go at first.
But after visiting the campus for the first time, she found her answer.
“I fell in love,” Pennington said laughing. “It was amazing, it was beautiful and right then and there I said, ‘that’s it, I’m here, I’m doing it.’”
Now, she said it was the best choice she ever made.
“I couldn’t imagine where I would be if I didn’t come here,” she said.
Pennington said despite the worries and gloom, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
WSC is expected to continue spring sports as of right now, and the thought gives Pennington hope.
“I know that it’s going to work out in the end and you can’t really do anything about it now so I’m not too stressed about it at this point until spring hits,” Pennington said.
And until then, Pennington said she is going to keep working to make her final year at WSC and on the softball team memorable.
“I want to prove to myself that I am here for a reason, I want to prove that (Dan Ries, the former softball coach) recruited me for a reason...and that’s my goal,” Pennington said. “I want to make (Dan Ries) proud, I want to make my grandma proud, and that’s just what I’m trying to do.”