Three Cougars recently sign with Kansas school

Gering graduates Madison Spencer and Kayla Romey have always dreamed about playing four-year softball. Now, they get the chance after signing letter of intents with Friends University in Wichita, Kan., on Saturday.

The two Western Nebraska Community College teammates, along with Cougar sophomore Melanie Rowson of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, all signed with Friends University, a NAIA institution, and are thankful to get there future college out of the way before they start practicing for their season next month.

In fact, all three Cougar players have taken different turns to get to this point. Romey and Rowson were members of the Cougar team last year. Spencer played last season at Northeastern Junior College in Sterling, Colo., before electing to play this year, her sophomore year, at WNCC.

Romey saw action last season as a freshman for the defending Region IX champions primarily as a pinch runner. This season, Romey will see action in the outfield. She said she selected Friends University because the program resembles the one at WNCC.

"I was actually looking at Chadron first because it was so close to home and I was afraid of moving away, but then the Friends' coach contacted me," she said. "We went and saw the campus and I really enjoyed it. Their academic programs are very good of what I want to go into [graphic design]. Their coach is a lot like Coach Winn. I like how the program is structured and it will be a nice transition."

Romey credits a lot of her success to WNCC softball coach Maria Winn-Ratliff.

"She has done a lot for me. She doesn't just help you with softball, she helps you with life in general," Romey said. "She teaches you to be a good person in every aspect of life. She puts challenges your way that teaches you to overcome those challenges and I believe that will help me in the future. She has prepared me for a four-year college in the fact she has taught me time-management and organizational skills that I am sure I will need when I am not here and close to family when they can help me. I feel she has done a lot to impact my life."

Romey batted .317 as a pinch hitter. Her main goal last year was that of a pinch runner because of her speed. Romey stole eight bases and scoring 16 runs a season ago.

Spencer enters her first year as a Cougars after spending last year as the starting catcher at Northeastern Junior College. The Plainswomen were in their first year and failed to win a game. Spencer, however, was one of the team's top hitters.

Upon transferring to WNCC, Spencer will see a shift from her usual catcher spot, a position she has played all through her career, to an outfielder. Spencer said that she would not have received this opportunity of going to Friends if she wouldn't have transferred.

"I decided to go there because it is a lot like here and they have high expectations," Spencer said. "I am excited for the challenge and it will be interesting. Throughout my softball career I have always caught but this year I am playing outfield and I can say that if I wouldn't have come to WNCC, I wouldn't be getting this opportunity know."

Spencer said she selected Friends because she is originally from Kansas and has relatives from the state. And, when she attends Friends, she will either be playing the outfield or be behind the plate. Whatever the case, she will be ready.

Spencer said she has become a better player over the past couple years.

"It is not so much that I have improved, it is that I have become a better well-rounded player," Spencer said. "I learned not to take things for granted and since coming to WNCC, I am getting a chance to play softball and thanks to my teammates helping me, I think I am better well-rounded."

Spencer said being a part of the Cougar softball program is one of her life-long dreams.

"I love coming back to WNCC to play," she said. "When I was in school and coming to their hitting camps, [the girls] always wanted to be in the program. It is actually nice to be a Cougar now and knowing that so many kids look up to you and wanting to be just like you. That is amazing."

Rowson, who redshirted last season after undergoing shoulder surgery, is anxious to get back on the field and start playing again.

"I am very, very ready to get back on the field," the outfielder from Canada said. "The season is coming close and I am very excited for it. I can't wait to get out there again.

Rowson said it was easy to pick Friends not only because of the softball tradition of the NAIA school, but the fact that she will be going there with two teammates.

"I visited both schools back to back and after going to Friends, it just felt right," Rowson said. "It felt like home when I went there. The program is a lot like Coach Winn's program where it is structured. I feel like I fit well here [at WNCC] so I thought it would be a great fit for me there as well."

All three are excited that they are going to the same college. Romey is looking forward to playing with Spencer and Rowson another two years.

"I have met a new friend Canada and I have been with Maddie since high school so that will be a good transition as well going with friends," Romey said.

Rowson said they can bring a lot to the table at Friends.

"Team chemistry is always a key component of doing well on the field and off the field," Rowson said. "I think all three of us, being so close, we can bring that to Friends and the chemistry at Friends will be the same."

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