From USAO Sports Information
CHICKASHA – Softball always has been a major part of Kindra Gregory Palacol’s life. It took her throughout high school, to college, and now well into her successful career in coaching and teaching.
Palacol now finds herself getting to use two of her passions at Norman North High School, in roles as the assistant fast pitch coach and Algebra I teacher.
“I knew growing up that I had a passion for coaching and the only way I could make a profession of that would be to teach as well,” she said. “This is where I expected my life to go but I never thought that it would work out the way it has. I have grown to trust in God and let His will be done in all that I do.”
Palacol was one of nine former athletes to be honored at the 40th Anniversary of Athletics, which was on USAO’s campus Nov. 1-3.
The 2007 USAO graduate, secondary math education, spent four years pitching for the Drover softball program. She holds career school records in most wins with 70 and innings pitched with 644.1. She’s also second in most strikeouts thrown with 494.
She decided to play for the Drovers both for the softball program and because of its proximity to her hometown of Lexington.
“I chose to come to USAO because I had faith in my coach, Julie Vergenz, who recruited me. I had a trust with her automatically,” she said. “I would like to thank … Julie Vergenz, who helped me grow as a player and a person while I was there.”
Palacol said she uses methods she learned at USAO in her career today.
“I model a lot of my coaching and teaching after Julie Vergenz,” she said. “USAO has played a role in my life by helping me to be prepared for my career. I thank all of the professors that taught me so much and helped with my experience to become a better teacher, especially Dr. Nancy Warden. She helped me stick with math.”
But the relationship between Palacol and Warden was symbiotic.
“She was one of the reasons I got really actively involved in watching the girls on the softball team. I actually followed them to regionals that year,” Warden said. “I really did enjoy watching her pitch … as well as helping her in the classroom.”
Warden describes Palacol as a student who always embraced challenges with diligence and a good attitude.
“She’s been excellent in the classroom (as a teacher),” Warden said. “I got to go observe her in the classroom and watch her coach one softball game at Lexington.”
Palacol was so impressed with Warden and USAO’s mathematics program, she sent one of her athletes, Kayla Woody, to USAO to become a math major, Warden said.
In addition to what she learned professionally, Palacol credits USAO for helping introduce her to her husband, Trey, and best friend, Stephanie Hey.
But it was the back-to-back-to-back trips to the NAIA National Tournament that bring in Palacol’s favorite memories in Drover softball.
“My fondest memory of USAO is when the softball team made it to nationals my sophomore year,” she said. “And then making it to nationals the next two years.”
While this is her first year at Norman North, she spent the last five years at her high school alma mater, Lexington, as the head fast pitch coach, an assistant basketball and assistant slow pitch coach.
Her first year there, she helped lead her players to become District Champions in fast pitch and State Champions in slow pitch. But her biggest achievement professionally occurred last year.
“My greatest accomplishment while coaching was the last year of coaching at Lexington,” she said. “My husband and I were the FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes) leaders at our school, and we had a child commit his life to Jesus.”
While she’s no long coaching at her former high school, she is coaching with her former high school coach, Carol Testa.
“(She) played a big role in helping me get to USAO,” Palacol said. “I am so thankful to her for recommending for this job and for being a great mentor.”
Palacol said she is grateful for everyone who has helped her achieve her goals and for the support she has received. She cited her coaches, professors, grandparents, and of course, her husband. The couple has one son, Kai, and another child on the way.
“I would also like to thank my mom and dad for dedicating so much of their time and money to helping me accomplish my dreams and for supporting me through every stage of my life,” she said. “And to my baby boy, Kai, for keeping me on my toes.”
Jessica Jackson is the Sports Information Director at USAO.