Forty-six consecutive wins? Easy.
Two straight undefeated seasons? No sweat.
Back-to-back AMAC championships? Piece of cake.
A Maryland 1A state champion? So simple she decided to do it twice.
In fact there isn’t anything on the field, or even likely off of it, that Mountain Ridge right fielder Katie Llewellyn will ever do that will be as tough as something she’s already done twice in the first 16 years of her life — beat cancer.
Diagnosed with leukemia when she was only 8 years old, Katie went almost another eight years before relapsing when she was 15. Having played sports her entire life, Katie was forced to the dugout to watch the Miners become 2011 state champions during her sophomore year.
Instead of thinking she missed out, Katie used it as motivation and returned from her second victory over leukemia to experience almost nothing but more victories on the field as a junior.
It began with 14 wins, a conference and 1A West Section championship and a Times-News area title in soccer, and finished with an undefeated run through the regular season, section and region titles and the state championship in softball.
After spending her sophomore year as the loudest and most talented cheerleader in the school, Llewellyn came out as one of the most anxious players in the area.
“It wasn’t easy sitting there watching them play,” said the southpaw-hitting outfielder. “I was happy that they kept winning, but a part of me wanted the season to get over with because it was hard not being out there.”
Martha Mauzy, Llewellyn’s coach in both softball and soccer, hit on what kept her in the dugout. “I think it helped her a lot to be part of the team because that was where she wanted to be. With her sister Taylor being a senior, Katie was not going to miss being there for her.”
At a time when most people would need someone to be there for them, all Katie was worried about was being there for others. Especially when that person was already there for her.
Katie and her older sister Taylor share a bond much closer than most siblings.
“My sister was my donor. I’d do anything for her. The least I could have done was be there at her softball games.”
According to Mauzy, Llewellyn wasn’t just being there for her sister, but for all of her teammates.
“Katie was an important part of the team last season, we dedicated our season to her. I reminded the team that what was before them was not hard compared to what Katie is going through. Things like that make you a stronger person in the long run, and what we experience is part of who we are.”
Katie turned the experiences she gained at getting better health-wise into getting ready on the field. Needing to work twice as hard as anyone else to get ready for her junior year she attacked the off season the way she attacks a 3-1 count.
“I used sports as goals while recovering,” she said. “I’ve been playing all my life, and it just added to the push to get back to where I was before.”
All of that effort was noticed by her coaches.
“She worked harder than anyone in the off season to get back her endurance and coordination,” Mauzy said. “She had a great desire to get back on the field as a player, and I had a great desire to see her there.”
That desire and hard work all came to a head near the culmination of Mountain Ridge’s playoff run in the state tournament.
She started by giving the Miners’ offense a jolt by hitting a solo home run during the second inning, and then singled and scored again in the sixth inning of their 4-3 win over Perryville in the state semifinals. She saved the best for last, though, by going 4 for 4 in Mountain Ridge’s 9-8 win against Colonel Richardson in the finals. Katie drove in Carlie Lewis with a single in the second inning for the Miners’ first run, and added a double and two more singles to her name before it was over.
“I really wanted to make sure I made an impact this year after only being able to watch last year,” said Llewellyn.
Her coach gave the story a mythical twist.
“The way she stepped up in the semis and final game is a storybook ending. It just showed what the kid was made of, and it makes us appreciate her all the more. We are lucky to have the privilege of coaching her.”
But the story isn’t over yet. Llewellyn still has one more season left at Mountain Ridge, meaning the rest of the area should be put on notice for all of next year.
It seems that once Katie Llewellyn sets her mind to it, there isn’t anything she can’t beat.
Chris Appel is a sportswriter for the Times-News. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.