By KIRK HARDCASTLE
NIACC sports information director
MASON CITY - Kayla Till won't be your basic freshman on the NIACC softball team this spring.
The 2017 Mason City graduate has already served 10 weeks of Army basic combat training in Fort Leonard Wood in Waynesville, Mo.
Till, who is currently enrolled in online classes at NIACC, leaves for another round of basic training on Jan. 2 in Fort Sill, Okla. in Lawton, Okla. and will return to the NIACC campus Feb. 8 when she will join the softball team.
The Lady Trojans open their 2018 season Feb. 15 against Viterbo University in Austin, Minn.
"I can't wait to play softball," Till said Wednesday morning after hitting in the NIACC recreation center. "I'm so excited to be part of the team."
Till decided to join the Army's team last year when she was visiting the University of Northern Iowa and walked past an Army booth that was set up on campus.
"That's how it got kick-started," Till said. "It really was like a one-day thing."
After she graduated from Mason City High School, Till reported to basic training in August for 10 weeks.
Goarmy.com describes Basic Combat Training as "a training course that transforms civilians into Soldiers. Over the course of 10 weeks, recruits will learn basic tactical and survival skills along with how to shoot, rappel and march. They will also learn the basics of Army life and militiary customs, including the Seven Core Army Values."
Till said she hasn't decided yet if a career in the Army is in her future and is considering going into Physical Therapy.
Till hit .375 with nine doubles, two home runs, 19 RBIs and 10 stolen bases during her senior season at Mason City. She was an honorable mention all-CIML-Iowa Division selection in 2017 and was a member of the 2017 Globe Gazette all-area team.
Till played third base and catcher for NIACC assistant coach Bob Horner, who is the Mohawks' head softball coach.
"That was the connection," first-year NIACC coach Dan Gratz said. "We're making it a point to get the best players in this area.
"It's always nice to add a player at the semester that's going to help us. She played in the best conference in the state. She will help us with our depth at several positions."
Gratz knows he's getting a player with a bunch of mental toughness.
"She's coming in with a little bit different perspective on life," Gratz said of Till's basic training experience. "That's the type of culture that we want to create. She will help us with our culture."