TAHLEQUAH – Last fall, the Tahlequah High School fast pitch softball team had a successful season, winning a regional championship and advancing to the 5A state tourney.
Cherokee citizen Charlea Cochran was among those winning postseason honors, all while hitting the books.
“With these last few semesters, I started taking college classes,” Cochran said. “My hope with those are to keep an A in those classes and start being able to settle down with what I want to pursue after high school.”
Cochran is not among those early commitments to this college or that. Her eventual selection will take her future career plans into account, and along with her academic success, her softball prowess also is likely worth some scholarship support.
“I haven’t decided where I will be attending college yet,” she said. “I have been in contact with multiple college coaches, and I have gone on a couple of visits, but I still have another year left to explore. For my career, I have my heart set on becoming a physical therapist. I would like to get my degree in exercise science or kinesiology, then go onto a PT school.”
While growing up, Cochran has become increasingly aware of her heritage and culture, and what they bring to her outlook.
“Being Cherokee and having the opportunity to learn more about what it means and where I come from, it gives you a different (view) on life,” she said. “Me and my sister growing up, we were always exposed to Cherokee culture and the language, so we never thought about how some people don’t get that opportunity to spread that knowledge like we do, and people take that for granted. Not only being Cherokee, but being a Native American in general has opened my eyes on how I perceive life now and how I to go about things.”
A middle infielder who put up some crazy numbers at the plate, Cochran was named the District 5A-4 Offensive Player of the Year.
Through 40 games, the junior hit .433 and struck out just four times, stole 19 bases and scored 54 runs. Her on-base percentage was .479 and her slugging percentage was .591.
“Being able to play softball has brought me so many opportunities,” Cochran said. “I have made so many new friends, I have met some amazing people, and it has taught me valuable life lessons.”
The competitiveness of the sport is what Cochran loves most about softball.
“Going up to bat in need of a big hit, or a ground-ball hit to me chasing one out,” she said. “The crowd is cheering, your heart is beating, you don’t have time to think, only react. Winning comes down to a matter of seconds and inches, so there’s no time to be thinking about something else. I think that’s why I love this sport so much. In the moment, doing your job is your only priority, so all the practice that you put in shows on the field.”
Approaching high school, Cochran “settled down” into playing second base and shortstop.
“When I first started ‘kid pitch’ I tried pitcher and third base,” she said. “When I started softball in general, I played on the infield. My freshman and sophomore year I played second base. My junior year, I moved over to shortstop and that is where I will play my senior year also.”