Lompoc High School senior Heidi Cardenas was ready for a change. So she will be attending college across the country.
Cardenas, a four-year Lompoc varsity outfielder, has committed to play softball for NCAA Division II West Virginia Wesleyan. West Virginia Wesleyan is located in Buckhannon and is a private liberal arts college.
She will major in athletic training, with the career goal of becoming an athletic trainer.
"It was just something out of state," Cardenas said of her decision to continue her education, and softball career, at West Virginia Wesleyan.
"I just wanted to get away from small-town Lompoc, see what the East Coast was about, just expand and explore as much as I could."
Cardenas said she has not seen the West Virginia Wesleyan campus in person. "I was supposed to have a visit but that got cancelled," because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
She said she was, however, able to take a virtual campus tour.
A CIF Southern Section Division 4 finalist in the shot put, Valle seemed set on continuing her throwing career at Santa Barbara City College. Then Cal State San Marcos came into the picture.
"It's a beautiful campus," Cardenas said. "There was a beautiful sunset, it snows over there. It's just a beautiful spot."
Cardenas was hitting .273 for a 2020 Lompoc team that was 6-3 before the pandemic truncated the Braves', and everyone else's, season in March.
"I was talking to a school in Pennsylvania, Geneva College, but West Virginia Wesleyan seemed more like the school I would be interested in," said Cardenas.
She played mainly left field, and also some center field, during her time at Lompoc.
"I'm aiming for any outfield position," at West Virginia Wesleyan, Cardenas said.
"I'd take a utility position. If I'm on the roster, I'm good."
According to Cardenas, West Virginia Wesleyan coach Steve Warner indicated to her that there was a good chance she would be on the field her freshman year.
In fact, "Having a conversation with coach Warner gave me a lot of confidence that I would be in the starting lineup," said Cardenas.
"We had a great conversation. He told me any questions I needed answers to, he would help with. He told me what the roster would look like, what's going down over there. He sounds like a really mature, really good coach. It sounds like he knows what he's doing over there."
The Bobcats were 12-6 under Warner in 2020 before the NCAA called off the rest of spring sports because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Team workouts have been cancelled since March, but Cardenas said she has been able to train on her own.
"I've been going to some local hiking trails, doing workouts there, running. I've hit the cages in Lompoc a couple of times, too."
Online learning has not been a hit with Cardenas.
"I would rather be in the classroom," she said.
Cardenas chuckled. "Over here, I'm thinking I'm on vacation. I keep getting notifications about homework."
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