MURFREESBORO, Tenn. -- There are few things I enjoy more than winning an argument.
As I stood watching the state softball tournament Thursday, the dad of a local player told me he believed there was so much competition for college scholarships that high school athletes need to specialize in just one sport now. I waited, letting him explain reasons why his daughter would follow her prep softball season with summer softball and plenty of individual lessons in the fall.
Then I merely mentioned three names: Soddy-Daisy's Kelsey Nunley and GPS's Tory Kemp and Simone Busby. All three have earned scholarships with NCAA Division I programs, but each is also a three-sport star.
Nunley, who will pitch for the University of Kentucky next year, has led the Lady Trojans' softball team back to the brink of playing for another state title. Earlier in the school year, she helped the volleyball team finish third in the state tournament and averaged a double-double in basketball.
Busby, who signed a soccer scholarship with Evansville University, competed in two events at the state track meet Thursday, finishing second in the shot put. She owns a state title in both the discus and shot put as well as three other second-place finishes in her track career and was the state basketball tournament MVP as a junior, helping the Bruisers claim the first of their two consecutive Division II championships. She's a three-time all-state keeper in soccer and also played on Guyana's national team last fall in the Under-20 World Cup.
"If I had just played soccer, I would have missed out on so much," Busby said. "On the field I got more confidence by playing and winning in different sports and just the experience of having fun competing with my friends. It kept me sharp for soccer. I would have regretted just playing one sport, but now I have no regrets."
Kemp became the brightest individual star at this year's Spring Fling by claiming five state championships this week in track and field. The University of North Carolina track signee has been a state qualifier since her eighth-grade year and had won or finished second in eight events the previous two years. Then she added titles this week in the pentathlon, competing in that grueling daylong event for the first time in three years on Monday, and in the long jump, triple jump, 100-meter hurdles and 300 hurdles Thursday.
A three-sport starter since her freshman year, Kemp helped the volleyball Bruisers reach the semifinals with 24 kills in one match, and she made two big 3-pointers in the championship game to spark the basketball team to its second straight state title this year.
Longtime Baylor track coach Bill McMahan praised Kemp as "probably the best overall female athlete to come through this city. She won five events at the state meet, and I guarantee you she could win several others if she could have entered them."
"Those girls are very competitive no matter what they're doing," said GPS softball coach Susan Crownover, who coached Busby and Kemp in basketball. "Even in practice drills, they were trying to beat each other.
"They don't like to be idle, so when one sport is off, they want to play another one just to stay competitive. That kind of attitude carries over into every other sport."
Stephen has covered local sports in the tri-state area for more than 20 years, starting at the News-Free Press as a 19-year-old reporter. He has been with the Times Free Press since its inception and has been an assistant sports editor since 2005. Stephen is among the most decorated writers in the TFP’s newsroom, winning numerous state, regional and national writing awards. He was named one of the top 10 sports writers in the nation ...