Ever since she was in eighth grade, Jaden Hurdle has dreamed of playing softball at the collegiate level.
She’s invested hundreds of hours to her craft, pushing herself as hard as she could both at the travel and high school levels to maximize her talent. She’s faced multiple serious injuries and come back from them stronger. She’s won a high school state championship and the Big-8 Conference Player of the Year, she’s been named all-conference in each of her first three years at the high school level, and thanks to a visit during the summer from a coach at Patrick Henry Community College, she will soon also sign her National Letter of Intent on Tuesday, officially making her a member of the Patriots squad for the 2020-2021 season.
Hurdle, a senior at Orange High School, was playing travel ball for Carolina Elite-Webster this summer when the coach from Patrick Henry came to watch her play. He told her he was interested in having her play for the school and a week after the team’s last tournament, she visited the college.
“I went to visit and he showed me around and told me what he had to offer, and then I didn’t decide on the spot,” Hurdle said. “I came home and thought about it and talked to my parents about it, and then I just knew that was the place I wanted to be.”
What stood out to Hurdle was the campus and the surrounding area of Martinsville, Va. It reminded her of home.
While some athletes could be intimidated by the prospect of playing at the collegiate level, Hurdle is not one of them. She’s been in big games, and faced plenty of adversity in her career.
As a freshman at Orange High School, she was a member of the varsity team led by future Mississippi State standout Mia Davidson that won the North Carolina 3-A State Championship, the first title for the Panthers in the sport.
“It was a really big deal to be a part of that, especially being a freshman on varsity, and getting to win a state championship your first year you’re in high school,” Hurdle said. “We just put a lot of effort into softball every single day, we worked hard, but when we finally got there, it was a huge excitement.”
Not only was the experience exhilerating, but she said it also helped her mature as an athlete. In fact, the more competitive the atmosphere, the more fun Hurdle has.
Following a freshman season where the first baseman hit four home runs with 39 RBIs and a .443 average, Hurdle improved on those numbers as a sophomore, finishing with a .475 average to go along with three home runs and 25 RBIs.
As a junior for the 2019 season, she was honored as the Big-8 Conference Player of the Year, finishing with a .385 average, three home runs, and 22 RBIs, and pitching to a 2-1 record with a 1.31 earned run average in five apperances.
“It was an amazing feeling, actually, it had just shown that all my hard work throughout the years had paid off and I was actually doing something good for my team and the people around me,” Hurdle said.
But to go along with the success was the adversity. This past summer, Hurdle underwent her second ACL surgery in two years, and had an operation to repair her meniscus in July. Yet with the help of the knowledge that she will be playing collegiate softball, she has continued to hold her head high.
“It’s been a struggle but I’m also keeping my head up and I know that I have a place to be after high school, so I’m not too down about it,” Hurdle said. “It sucks right now, but I’m just going to work hard and continue to work hard so that I can better myself.”
Now that Hurdle knows where she will play for the next two years, she wants to continue following her dream of playing as a college athlete, and work hard enough to transfer to a four-year institution to cap off her softball career after her two years are up.
But first, she must get to next Tuesday, when she signs her National Letter of Intent, gives a speech and dons a Patrick Henry Patriots hat on her head.