Hard work continues to pay off for Ardmore standout
By Mallory Graves
Ardmore senior Lauren Blankenship is no stranger to hard work. The recent graduate from Ardmore High School plans to continue her softball career at the University of Louisiana Monroe in the fall. She signed in November of 2019 at Ardmore High School.
“I have been down there around seven or eight times since my freshman year of high school,” Blankenship said. “It felt like home. I remember before even stepping foot on the softball field, my family and I drove around campus and I just stopped and said to myself that this was home. One of the main things that I adore about ULM is the small town feel. It’s a D1 university, but it’s not so big that it is overwhelming. I will be able to walk to class and see people I know every day. What drew me in close was the fact that it’s very different from Oklahoma. I love Oklahoma, but I love change and this will be a very exciting one for me. I would like to study health studies pre-profession and I plan on going to Radiology School after that to become a radiology assistant.”
During Blankenship’s senior year, she was named Valedictorian and Distinguished Honor Scholar at Ardmore.
“I got a letter from Ardmore High School and was very curious as to what it was,” Blankenship said. “I opened the letter and I was ecstatic. Being named a Valedictorian has been a major goal of mine ever since I started school. I had to work hard, especially my senior year. I took on being a concurrent student while maintaining high school classes, all the while knowing if I made a B in my college classes, it would ruin my chances of accomplishing this goal. But, I enjoy being challenged. I took it straight on and worked my tail off every day to continue making A’s and my dedication got me there. I completed 12 honors classes (pre-AP, AP and college credit) in my four years of high school to earn the Distinguished Honors award. I was super excited when I learned that I was an Honors scholar, because it shows that I did not take the easy route in high school. I challenged myself which makes the honor mean even more to me.”
Many sacrifices were made by Blankenship to reach her goals.
“There were many nights that my friends went out, and I was unable to go and do things with them because I put my studies first,” Blankenship said. “Although it was hard watching my classmates make memories without me, it worked out in the end. I do not regret staying in at all. At some point in life, we have to make the choice to put some things aside, even if we really enjoy them, and start taking things seriously. I started that a lot earlier than most of my peers due to the loss of a friend to an ATV accident. I believe that it has made me better and stronger for the long run. Because of that, I have looked at life a little differently than most my age.”
Before moving to Ardmore, Blankenship attended Dickson High School until her 7th grade year.
“I moved my 8th grade year,” Blankenship said. “Right after Lauren Smith’s accident in 7th grade, it really put into perspective how short life is. I realized Dickson was no longer where I needed to be. I loved the school and the people, it just was not the right fit for what I needed to achieve out of life. When I moved to Ardmore in 8th grade, I was surrounded by coaches who made me so much better and pushed me in ways I had never been pushed before. I never doubted my decision to move because within nine months of me being at Ardmore Schools I had already earned a Division 1 scholarship. That validated my decision.”
Blankenship has been playing softball for many years now. She is very passionate about it and believes that this sport has taught her more than just skills for the game.
“Softball is a game based off of failure,” Blankenship said. “What I mean by that is in order for a pitcher to be successful she has to make the batter fail by striking her out or getting her out in general. On the other side of that, if the hitter wants to be successful, she has to make the pitcher fail by hitting the ball. In life, there are certain situations where it feels like we have failed ourselves. However, just like in softball, you have the opportunity to wash away and redeem yourself the next opportunity that you get. Softball has taught me that in life it’s okay to fall down, as long as we pick ourselves back up and come back stronger each time.”
The Corona virus has taken away the end of many senior years across the country. Blankenship was headed to a basketball state tournament when she found out that her senior year was cut short.
“I was a sports manager for the girls basketball team at Ardmore and we were actually eating lunch fixing to head to the state tournament when everything shut down,” Blankenship said. “Although I was not physically playing that day, it was hard to watch the expressions of my fellow senior friends who would never get to compete for that gold ball. COVID-19 took away what would have been the best part of my high school experience from my classmates and I. We never got to do our senior luncheon, baccalaureate, normal prom, or even a normal graduation. Growing up, my classmates and I always counted on those days as a senior and COVID-19 took that away from us. Our school has done an amazing job of trying to help honor us however we needed. We are planning on having as close to a normal graduation that we can in July.”
College is a time where most individuals figure out not only themselves, but their interests as well and Blankenship is excited for her journey.
“I am most looking forward to being challenged both mentally and physically in college,” Blankenship said. “I enjoy being put in uncomfortable situations, because I think that’s what makes us better as people. I’m looking forward to getting to meet new people and start a life of my own.”