HELENA — Dual-sport athletes aren't completely uncommon at Carroll College. Shamrock Campbell and Kamden Hilborn both see substantial minutes for the Fighting Saints men's and women's basketball teams in the winter, while also competing on the Carroll College track and field teams in the spring.
For Campbell and Hilborn, shortly after the basketball season ends in March, they join track and field head coach Harry Clark and dive into training for their events.
Sarah Conway, a sophomore outfielder and goalkeeper, doesn't have that luxury this year. When Conway signed her letter of intent to compete for the Fighting Saints' softball team and women's soccer team, she assumed she'd be playing each sport in their respective seasons -- soccer in the fall, softball in the spring. When the COVID-19 pandemic forced some fall sports seasons to move to the spring, Conway had two choices.
She could pick one sport or, more important to Conway, one team over the other, or figure out a way to play both all while balancing a rigorous school schedule. Conway said she put a lot of thought into her decision and said she chose to play both women's soccer and softball this spring because she didn't want to abandon either team as they navigated this spring.
“I thought about it a lot that I could never let either team down that way," said Conway. "It's about mental health and all of that stuff, but when you think about it, you couldn't just leave one team to go to the other team.”
While balancing both sports and school, Conway has started in 21 of the Fighting Saints' 29 softball games, batting .316 with seven stolen bases while maintaining a .944 fielding average in 22 games overall. On the pitch, Conway started three of the women's soccer team's eight games and saw action in five overall and maintained an 85% save rate while guarding the goal.
From both of her coaches' standpoints, Conway's ability not only to manage everything this spring but also contribute significantly is otherworldly.
“She's just a super-athletic, coachable kid that's willing to do anything you ask. And that's really what's making the situation work,” said Carroll women's soccer head coach Dave Thorvilson.
“Sarah just contributes an all-out mentality. I think you have to have that mentality to do what she's doing right now. On the field, she just sells it out all the time,” said Carroll College softball coach Aaron Jackson.
As for balancing both teams' games and practices, as well as her classes and schoolwork, Conway said it's an intricate balance that doesn't lend itself to free time.
"Usually, the practices don't coincide, so that's pretty easy. It just so happens that my schedule works out this semester. I think it'd be a lot harder if I had a bunch of classes during practice times. Usually, softball is like 12-ish, and soccer is like 4 (p.m.), so I get a little bit of time there, and I took a bunch of morning classes to manage that part," said Conway.
When Conway went to Jackson and Thorvilson about playing both sports this spring, both agreed they'd do almost whatever it took to make it work. Aside from one logistical hiccup, everything went according to plan.
"Two weeks ago, our softball team was at Northwest in Seattle, and we were at Rocky (Mountain College in Billings), and we knew our starting goalkeeper would not be able to play -- we knew we could probably get her for one game, but we weren't sure if we could get her two," said Thorvilson. "After a conversation with the softball coach and Sarah, we were able to fly her out after her first day of games into Billings about 10:30 that night for noon kickoff the next day."
"Luckily, the flight times worked. We could play our games and get there in time," said Jackson. "Then she could go and compete at Rocky for the women's soccer team."
As the Carroll College women's soccer season winds down and the softball team gets ready for the latter half of its season, Conway noted this season and school semester has been tough and said if she was given the choice to do it again, she likely wouldn't.
“Oh boy," said Conway with a sigh. "I don’t think I’d choose to do this again. This is pretty hard and pretty mentally challenging.”