Shortly before heading south with the rest of the Del Norte softball team for the North Coast Section Division IV Championship game, senior shortstop Payten Healy officially signed to continue her athletic career into college, playing softball at Willamette University in Salem, Oregon.

“It means a lot,” Healy said. “A lot of kids don’t really see themselves going on, but ever since I started playing softball I dreamt of going to a university to play college softball. Now that I am able to do that it is really exciting.”

Healy has been a big part of Del Norte’s athletic programs since steping foot in school as a freshman. She played four years of varsity volleyball, basketball and softball while being named to the all-Humboldt-Del Norte Big 5 numerous times in multiple sports. Healy has also won the last two Big 5 volleyball MVP awards as the setter for the league champion Warriors.

Although successful in all three sports, Healy said she has probably spent the most time on softball.

“I’ve been playing softball for a really long time.,” Healy said. “I played on a travel league team out of Brookings with Tony Baron and my dad (Aaron Healy) coaching for about four or five years. That got us all the practice that we needed to where we were good enough, but there wasn’t so many opportunities out of that.”

That all changed last summer when Healy went to a softball camp at Humboldt State. There she caught the eye of Sacramento ASA coaches Derek Harris, Doug Menefee and Rick Denning of Miken Elite. Healy was invited to join up with Miken Elite last summer where she got a little bit more exposure to college coaches.

“We went to a bunch of showcase tournaments,” Healy said. “That is when the coach from Willamette found me and asked me to come play for them.”

Although Willamettte is a NCAA Division III school, meaning that it does not give athletic scholarships, Healy has done well enough in the classroom to get a little extra help financially. Along with a chance to play softball in college, Healy said Willamette University is a good fit for her academically. She said she plans to major in pre-health there, with the end goal of becoming a physician’s assistant.

“It is a really good school academically, and it provides me a chance to study what I want to do for my career,” Healy said. “The coach is very excited, and he kind of gave us a deal that was hard to deny. Plus it’s just a chance to be able to play the sport still and be close to home — not too close, not too far.”

Healy said she expects to continue to play shortstop in Salem, though she is willing to move around and try out some new spots if need be.

“My goal is to become part of their team, part of their program and fit in well,” Healy said. “I’m just going to do what I can and see what happens.”

Reach Michael Zogg at mzogg@triplicate.com .

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