Monday, April 23, 2018
Sports

Plant City High softball player takes her speed to USF

The eight years that followed have done little to dim Ken Eriksen's memory of the day Kristen Wyckoff caught his eye.

Eriksen's University of South Florida softball team had just won a 2004 game, and its players were signing autographs for youths, including Wyckoff's 10-and-under team.

"Oh it was amazing," Eriksen said. "I remember it vividly."

Wyckoff, running about on the field, flashed a burst of speed that couldn't be ignored.

"A bunch of kids are playing and all of a sudden, one kid bolts from the left-field line all across the outfield. This boy had a 20-foot headstart, and by the time he got to centerfield, he was done. It was over," Eriksen said. "And she was like (Olympian) Zola Budd, barefoot, shorts and a T-Shirt."

Naturally, Eriksen's interest was piqued. So he went over to the youngster's coach, Kristen's dad, Clay, and asked if she could run again.

"So he said, 'Hey sunshine, run over here' and I was like, my goodness gracious," Eriksen said. "What the heck did I just see? Her stride length, she was just so far ahead of the curve."

As long as she has played sports, Kristen Wyckoff has been the fast one. Any boy who was unfortunate enough to challenge her to a contest could attest.

"I used to race the boys at Walden Lake Elementary," Wyckoff says, a sly grin emerging with the memory. "They wouldn't win."

Those traits, both the speed and the relishing of competition, have served Wyckoff well.

Last week, she signed a letter of intent to play for Eriksen at USF. The team made the College World Series last season.

In three years at Plant City High, Wyckoff has utilized her talent to become onr of the state's top base stealers.

As a junior, Wyckoff was fourth in Florida with 42 steals, and as a left-handed slap hitter, she tossed in a cool .592 batting average. In her sophomore year, she was a perfect 38-for-38 in steals.

With Wyckoff entrenched as leadoff hitter the past three years, Plant City has had trips the postseason each time, highlighted by 2011's journey to the region finals.

Softball wasn't the only sport she excelled at. Wyckoff used that blazing speed to terrorize the opposition in most all of the Plant City Recreation Department programs, notably flag football — starting at age 5.

Wyckoff helped Plant City's Little League 9-10 All-Stars to consecutive state titles. As a freshman at Plant City, she played four sports (basketball, volleyball, flag football and softball). She cut out basketball the following year, and as a senior is only doing softball and flag football.

That's evidence of Wyckoff being far from one-dimensional. She's not just a good athlete, shown by her 4.13 grade-point average.

"The competitor in her is evident," Eriksen said. "That's why I just don't go watch Showcase (All-Star) teams. I like to see kids in competitions that mean something. And I can see she doesn't like to get beat in anything. I'd hate to go against her, even in checkers."

With her college choice out of the way, Wyckoff can focus on improving her game as a senior. But you may be surprised to hear what she thinks can get better.

"I want to get faster," she said, noting that she can do a better job of getting stretched out.

Darek Sharp can be reached at [email protected]

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