Sports Editor

Sports editor for Lee Enterprises Central Illinois.

Molly White will graduate from LeRoy High School on Sunday. That's one thing she's doing this weekend.

Another is heading to Camp Lincoln in Springfield for something called RSP.

"Recruit Sustainment Program," White explained.

It will involve a physical training test on Saturday morning, then "combative" drill work. Sunday morning, it's more physical activity and drills.

White does this once a month. She also is a three-sport athlete with a 3.88 grade point average on a 4.0 scale. Weekday mornings, she works at LeRoy Elementary School from 7 to 8 before heading to the high school. Sometimes, she'll hit or work out or run before school as well.

Maybe you did all that when you were a teenager. Most of us didn't. We didn't have the drive or discipline of White, who one day could be in your city or down the block or at your door, ready to come to your aid.

A slick-fielding and, this season, run-producing second baseman on LeRoy's softball team, White committed to the Army National Guard in September. She did so for her, but also for you and me.

"Helping people is something I'm really passionate about. And I've always wanted to serve my country in some way," White said prior to a Tuesday afternoon softball practice.

"I remember when I was younger watching the news and when the Ferguson (Mo.) fires happened, I saw the National Guard come there and just kind of calm things down and help people out."

She also watched the National Guard assist in the aftermath of a hurricane. The situations moved her, creating a call to action too clear to ignore.

White went to her parents, Kim and Michael White, and told them what she wanted to do. Not long after, on Sept. 25, she made the six-year commitment to the National Guard.

We should feel good about that.

"You think about your own family and if something were to happen and somebody had to come and help you, she is exactly the type of person you would want in those shoes," LeRoy softball coach Doug Hageman said.

"People want to know they can count on you. We all know we can count on her. It (the National Guard) suits her to a T. That's kind of who she is."

White has played volleyball, basketball and softball all four years at LeRoy, earning MVP honors in March at the Heart of Illinois vs. Sangamon Valley all-star basketball game in Gibson City.

Hageman has seen her evolve from a shy, quiet freshman into a trusted senior leader. She has given her sports all she has. She will tell you they have been generous in return.

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White played almost exclusively on defense a year ago, making difficult plays seem routine. However, she had only 15 to 20 at-bats all season. This year, she is batting .328 and has driven in 31 runs in 75 at-bats.

"When I was struggling with my hitting last year and coach would sit me out, it brought out more determination in me," White said. "My teammates have helped in bringing me out of my shell. And being put on the playing field, you can't really be shy if you want to be competitive and to win.

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"It (playing sports) has shaped me into someone who would want to join the National Guard."

White leaves July 23 for 10 weeks of basic training at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo. With a desire to work in law enforcement, she plans to train to become a military police officer. That will mean an additional nine weeks after basic training.

After that, she expects to enroll in college in the fall of 2020. She will attend weekend drills and also "train for two weeks to a month" each year, preparing to be called upon in times of need.

It's who she is. Sports helped make her that way.

"There are a lot of people who don't do sports who have joined the National Guard," White said. "I feel like I am many steps ahead of them." 

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Contact Randy Kindred at (309) 820-3402. Follow him on Twitter: @pg_kindred


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