FEMALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR | Romo displays all-around excellence

Hayley Romo played soccer, basketball and fastpitch as a junior at South Kitsap High School. - File Photo
Hayley Romo played soccer, basketball and fastpitch as a junior at South Kitsap High School.
— image credit: File Photo

Past recipients

2013: Miranda Caballero

2012: Maile Keanu

2011: Kelsey Callaghan

2010: Riley Dopps

2009: Stephanie Osterdahl

2008: Kaileigh Westermann

2007: Madison Rousell

2006: Madison Rousell

2005: Brittany Miller

2004: Stephanie Davison

Many athletes chose to specialize in a specific sport.

Others, such as South Kitsap junior Hayley Romo, focus on playing some of the games’ most demanding positions with success — each season.

For those reasons — coupled with an impressive academic portfolio — Romo has been selected as the Port Orchard Independent’s Female Athlete of the Year.

“She’s just a very steady; very smart player,” said former South girls soccer coach Julie Cain, who used Romo as a starter at defensive-center mid since midway through the 2011 season. “She’s a very responsible person and I think that comes across in all of the sports she plays. She’s just consistent game in and game out in her work rate and her ability to read the game.”

Romo, who plays soccer, basketball and fastpitch for the Wolves, credits her family, coaches and teammates for helping her to strive to perform better.

During the winter, Romo assumed the role of point guard for South. She has less experience in basketball, which she began playing at age 8, and initially struggled with confidence to run the offense. She credited senior Gabby Stewart, a player Romo said pushed her to accept challenges on the court that might not be comfortable, with changing her mentality.

“This year taught me that confidence really is everything in what you do,” she said.

The Wolves finished 12-10 overall and 7-5 in Class 4A Narrows League play and now Romo looks forward to perhaps her final season on the hardwood.

That is because she probably will have to choose between playing fastpitch and soccer in college. Romo, who competes on the Harbor Premier FC team and has played soccer since she was 4, always thought she would focus on that sport at the next level.

But the family also has a strong pedigree on the diamond. Romo remembers spending many afternoons playing wiffle ball in the back yard with her father and older brother Tanner, a 2011 South graduate who was an infielder at Everett Community College.

The younger Romo played second base for the Wolves’ 2013 squad that advanced to the Class 4A state tournament. With the graduation of shortstop Alissa Buss, who was regarded as a stronger defender and now plays at Linfield College in Oregon, Romo moved over to that position.

“I had big shoes to fill,” Romo said. “That’s for sure.”

She proved more than capable of filling them. During the June 9 All-Star showcase fastpitch game at the Fairgrounds, Romo hit a double and a home run en route to a 3-for-3 finish that garnered her MVP honors.

“It was nice playing with all of the best players in the area,” Romo said. “I was so nervous before the game. It was an honor to play at that level.”

Even with her busy athletic schedule, Romo might invest more time in that sport in preparation for college.

“I’ve only played softball for high school,” she said. “I don’t have as much exposure because I’m not on a select team, but I might do that this summer. Hopefully, I can get more opportunities with that because I would love to play fastpitch in college.”

Soccer also remains a possibility. Romo was a defender for South, but she could play a variety of positions.

“The defensive-center mid kind of runs our offense,” Cain said. “You know she’s going to get back and defend hard. You know she’s going to get up and attack. She strikes the ball very, very well. She’s a very smart soccer player. She’s great at distributing the ball side to side.”

Regardless of who takes over as coach, Romo will be among 17 players who return from last year’s playoff roster.

“I’m really looking forward to next year because we’re going to have a really solid team,” she said.

Ask her about any season and the answer remains consistent: Romo said her favorite sport depends on the season.

Her resolve in the classroom, where Romo maintains a 3.81 grade-point average, is nothing less. Romo said maintaining a balance between academics and athletics requires discipline.

“It started in junior high,” she said. “I always was involved in select soccer. I do my homework that night no matter how late it is. I used to be a really bad procrastinator. I’ve learned that I can’t do that and get really good grades. It just doesn’t work.”

While Romo is not certain which sport she will play in college, she wants to major in a medical-related field. Romo said she could be a doctor or a veterinarian — she likes that both fields offer job stability.

But there is a bigger incentive for her to work in medicine — one that she illustrates on the playing field.

“I really like helping people,” Romo said. “That’s my thing.”

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