Editor’s note: This profile on Nikki Conway ’06 is the second in a 13-part series written by Valerie Turgeon ’13 on the alumni who will be inducted into the St. Thomas Athletic Hall of Fame on Sept. 19. Read a new profile every weekday in tommiesports.com.
For more information or to sign-up online for the induction banquet, click here:
Nikki Conway ’06 admits that her St. Thomas softball team may have been a bit “crazy,” but she would not have had it any other way.
“We practiced in the pouring rain, shoveled snow off the field and practiced at 5 a.m.,” she said. “We lived together and ate together. We did everything together.”
Closer than the stitches on the softballs they threw, this team’s friendship and hard work led to great success for the Tommies, with Conway leading the way. They won NCAA Division III titles in 2004 and 2005, finished second in 2006 and had a 169-20 record in her four years as a starter.
Conway was not only a two-time All-America, she also was a CoSIDA Academic All-America as a social sciences major –- and she is proud of that.
“I knew I wanted to go to St. Thomas because of its reputation for having a great academic program,” she said. “I wanted to be a good student as well as softball player.”
And unlike other coaches who talked with Conway, St. Thomas’ John Tschida told her that while she was a good player at Cretin-Derham Hall, he could make her even better.
Tschida kept that promise, and Conway delivered. She was among 37 players selected for the national ballot for the Division III Softball 25th Anniversary Team and was MIAC Player of the Year and Division III Catcher of the Year as a senior in 2006. Consider these statistics:
• She made the Division III College World Series All-Tournament Team three times, and in 23 career NCAA postseason games she helped the Tommies post a 21-2 record as she batted .492 with 38 hits, 32 RBI, 31 runs, eight doubles, two triples, nine HRs and a 1.000 slugging percentage.
• She was only the second player in Division III softball history to surpass 40 HRs, 200 runs and 200 hits on her career and still holds MIAC records for career home runs (48), runs (229), extra-base hits (117), walks (86) and slugging percentage (.789). In Division III, she broke the career record for runs scored (229 in 189 games) and ranks second in runs, seventh in home runs, and 10th in doubles
• She batted .404 in her career with 230 hits, 159 RBI, 48 HRs, 62 doubles, 86 walks, 62 steals, 450 total bases and a .789 slugging percentage.
With a hot streak like this, Conway decided to keep the fire going by playing in the National Pro Fastpitch league. She played for the Michigan Ice the summer after she graduated, but the team folded because of funding issues.
The path that led to Conway’s career in softball can be traced to her childhood when she and her sister watched her parents play softball. The sisters began to play themselves, starting out on T-ball and baseball teams. “I was a bit of a tomboy growing up,” she said.
Recognizing there aren’t as many opportunities for women in athletics, Conway is extremely proud of being inducted into the St. Thomas Hall of Fame where -– for the first time -– the class has more women than men inductees.
“I think women need to see young females succeed, especially in sports, so that they have a role model,” she said. “I hope there continues to be more opportunities for women in the future.”
Conway knows something about being a role model, especially in her job managing programs on St. Paul’s East Side for the juvenile justice system. She has worked for five year with juveniles on probation to establish themselves into the community as part of 180 Degrees, Inc.
“I have a passion working with kids,” she said.
Conway also has a master’s degree, in youth development and leadership from the University of Minnesota. She hopes to someday blend her love for softball and passion for helping and educating teens by establishing a softball team in less-privileged areas where the sport isn’t as popular.
But for now, Conway is focused on taking care of her family with her husband, John, their three-year-old son, Liam, and a second child on the way this September. She hopes the baby (they are keeping the gender a surprise) will come before the Hall of Fame induction ceremony so she will be able to attend.
“It’s an honor,” Conway said of the Hall of Fame. “I’m proud and excited that I get to celebrate this with some of my teammates because softball is a team sport. We win and lose together.”
Conway praised Tschida for making her a success – and not just on the field.
“I can’t say enough about him,” she said. “He is the person who took the program to where it is today. It’s one of the most elite programs in the country and he’s nationally known as an expert at softball, but he also knows how to work with people on the mental part of the game. He is a selfless person and doesn’t want to win for himself, but he wants other people to succeed, and not just in softball. In college, all the life skills I learned were due to him.”
Jake Barkley 2003 Football
Nikki Conway 2006 Softball
Roman Cress 2003 Track & Field
Carrie Embree 2007 Softball, Basketball
Jane Gibbs-Becker 2004 Volleyball
Kristal Grigsby 2006 Track & Field
Andrew Hilliard 2003 Track & Field, Football
Diane Loughlin Urick 1989 Track & Field, Cross Country
Janet Nagle 2006 Softball
Steve Pignato 1997 Baseball
Isaac Rosefelt 2007 Basketball
Tessie Thompson 2003 Soccer
Michelle Wong 2005 Softball