VALDOSTA -- Paige Lester and Brooke Davis have been teammates and friends for years. Now both Lowndes High seniors will be Blazers.
Davis, Lowndes' All-State catcher, will join the Blazer softball team, while Lester, a four-sport athlete at Lowndes, will run cross country for VSU.
"We've grown up playing together, and we're happy for each other," Davis said.
Davis had a big senior year last fall. She batted .375 and was among the team leaders in nearly every offensive category. She had 11 doubles (tied for team lead), 23 RBI, a .419 on-base percentage, a .510 slugging percentage and scored 17 runs. She also provided good defense behind the plate for Lowndes, and wound up sharing the team MVP award with shortstop Lauren Rowe, an Ole Miss signee.
"I was really excited. I wasn't expecting it. When they called my name (as the co-MVP), it was a shock to me," Davis said.
She also continued a trend: All-State Lowndes catchers. Lauren Lineberger was All-State in 2001, Robin Williams was in 2002, and Davis received the honor last year.
"I knew I had some big shoes to fill," Davis said. "I worked every day to get better. It takes a lot of hard work. I spent a lot of time practicing my hitting so I would get better, and I did.
"Getting All-State was one of the best things that happened to me during high school. To be good enough to be named one of the top players in the state of Georgia, that says a lot."
"I can't say enough about Brooke," Lowndes softball coach Jared Dickey said. "She improved tremendously. She worked so hard over the summer and throughout the season. We couldn't have done anything without her. She was a good catcher, a good hitter. The catcher should be a leader, and she was a leader."
Valdosta State will graduate standout catcher Tonya Coffey, so there will be an opening for another catcher.
"Coach (McDaniel) says that if I come in and work hard, I have a chance to play," Davis said. "I'm going to work hard, and try to get better."
Lester will try to watch some softball games. Unless, of course, she's out running.
In an era where young athletes are often encouraged to specialize in one sport, Lester has been an exception. She has varsity letters in softball, cross country, soccer and basketball.
"When I was younger, I went to a private school. Everybody there played all the sports," Lester said. "When I came here, I wanted to keep playing them. I have fun playing all of them."
One morning, Lester ran a cross country race in Douglas, then went to the softball field to play in a game. She won the race, then helped Lowndes win the game.
"Paige is one of the most dedicated athletes we have," Dickey said. "Up until this year, she played four sports here. There were many evenings where she would come to softball practice, then she'd leave softball practice and go off and run."
Softball is Lester's first love, but when she considered college, she felt running was what she should do.
"Softball is my favorite, but I liked cross country because of the time factor. It doesn't take as much time," Lester said. "School is important to me. I want to get good grades in college.
"Nobody likes to run, but I enjoy what I get out of it. I like the coach at VSU (Johnny Lancaster) and my coach here (Lowndes' Craig Barnes). I'm looking forward to running for VSU."
Lester has played on two region champions in softball, two in basketball and three in soccer. She and Davis also played on the state runner-up softball team their junior year, which both consider one of the highlights of their LHS softball careers.
"I was so happy for the seniors that year, that they got to end their high school careers (playing for a state championship)," Davis said.
Both Davis and Lester are good students and HOPE scholars. Lester wants to be a physician's assistant, while Davis is undecided on a major, but has considered becoming a dentist -- or a softball coach, so she can stay close to the game she loves.
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