Whether it's been on the field or in a gym, Brittany Cheney has always been a competitor.
A three-sport all-star out of Abington High, her scholastic career culminated in being named the Globe's Athlete of the Year in 2002. Upon graduation, Cheney took her considerable talents to Maine, where she concentrated on softball. A shortstop, she wrapped up a spectacular four years last spring by leading the Black Bears in batting average (.367), hits (61), home runs (7) and RBIs (34) during her senior campaign.
Yet these days, Cheney finds herself in unfamiliar territory. Her playing days behind her, she is now a spectator.
"It's just awful," said Cheney. "You don't want anyone to forget your legacy, but then you see someone out there in your uniform, wearing your number, playing your position, on your field. That's when you know, you're done."
What a legacy she left behind. After a sensational high school career, Cheney had two key decisions to make: Where to to go to school and what sport to play. The choice to go to Maine was an easy one for her.
“I had family up here,” said Cheney. “I heard all about Maine. I originally wanted to play basketball for Maine when I was younger, because they had such a great team when I was growing up.”
In high school, Cheney was an all-star in soccer, basketball, and softball. She soon realized that softball was her first love, playing in summer leagues when the school year was over, and even competing in indoor leagues during the basketball season.
“I played softball year-round,” said Cheney. “I just loved the game more than any other sport.”
As her high school career was winding down, Cheney was looking at Boston College, Providence, and Maine. The campus visit was the deciding factor.
“The community here is unlike any other,” said Cheney. “The athletic department as a whole is more homey. The softball team really takes pride in the fact that we have something like a 95 percent return rate for visiting players.”
Playing softball for a Division 1 school was also important to Cheney, and she knew she would get a shot to compete for a starting spot right away for the Black Bears. She did just that, earning All-Rookie honors in the America East while leading Maine in both RBIs (24) and runs scored (27). She was also spectacular in the field with an 18-game errorless streak, and in the classroom, where she was an America East Academic Honor Roll selection.
Cheney racked up more impressive numbers her sophomore season as the Black Bears rolled to the America East title and all the way to the NCAA tournament.
“That was awesome,” said Cheney. “That was just a great feeling, to go out to Nebraska and play in big-time softball games. It was probably the highlight of my career.”
The accolades continued to pile up her junior and senior seasons for Cheney, but there would be no return trip to the NCAAs, despite the fact that the Black Bears took the America East regular season title both years.
“We had a great season, but then we bombed in the conference tournament,” said Cheney. “It was kind of depressing. It was nice to finish my career on my home field though.”
That's not to say that Cheney is wandering around with too much time on her hands. Last year, she was named to the America East Academic Honor Roll and won the Dean Smith Academic Award, which is given annually to the top female student-athlete on the Maine campus. This year she is back at Maine, serving as a volunteer assistant coach while she finishes her undergraduate studies.
"I knew I was coming back to finish my thesis, and I wanted to stay involved," said Cheney. "We had two assistant coaches resign last year, so that gave me a chance to come back, strictly as a volunteer."
It's a transition that Cheney is still coming to grips with.
"It's tough for me to this day," said Cheney. "We have such a young team. It's very tough when you just can't crawl into their bodies and play."
While she still gets the itch to play, Cheney insists she's done. There will be no attempts at a pro career in the National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) league.
"I'm pretty much throwing in the towel," said Cheney. "I absolutely wanted to tryout, but this is the most realistic choice."
Cheney is looking ahead to a future without softball. This spring she will get her degree in Psychology. Next year she plans on taking science classes, with an eye toward applying for medical school, and, in the long run, getting involved with sports medicine and staying in college athletics.
"That's my ideal goal," said Cheney. "It would be great to be a doctor for a Division 1 school."
Why not? She's conquered everything else.