It’s rare when a student-athlete graduates from high school but also finishes half of their college career too.
It’s even rarer when there are two, at the same school, and on the same two teams, who do it together.
That’s what happened this past year when a pair of Bell seniors, Michelle Heilig and Emma Hutto, both earned their Associate of Arts degree.
Plus, the pair both received their CNA license before their high school graduation.
“Our program has grown stronger because of these two athletes,” said Krystal Holley, who has coached both on the varsity level in softball since their seventh-grade seasons. “The leadership and team relationships they have helped build this year has been one like no other. I know it will continue into our next season, and I thank them for planting the seed that will continue to build not only good athletes but even better teammates.”
Heilig, along with Hutto, helped lead the volleyball team to three straight district championships, two final fours, and one state championship game appearance.
“I have had the opportunity to coach these two athletes for the past several years and during that time they both have proven to be hard-working, intelligent, and reliable,” Holley said. “They are leaders on our softball team by setting an excellent example to the younger players and being a remarkable teammate. Not only do they excel on the softball field, but they also thrive in the classroom setting.”
Heilig earned first team All-Area honors in volleyball during her senior season when she led the ‘Dogs with 363 kills and finished second with 365 digs.
“Michelle has been a tremendous athlete for Bell High School,” said Bell volleyball coach Drue Barry. “She has been a two-sport athlete (volleyball and softball) her entire high school career.”
Heilig also added 36 aces as the Bulldogs advanced to the Class 1A regional finals in her final season, falling to Dixie County (Cross City) just one game short of another state semifinal appearance.
“She was an integral part of all the success we achieved on the volleyball court,” Barry said. “She will be truly missed at Bell, but we are excited to see her succeed in her next stage of life, and she will make a great nurse.”
This past spring, the All-Area honorable mention shortstop had a team-leading .370 batting average.
She led the Bulldogs with 27 hits, 26 runs scored, nine doubles, two triples, four home runs, and 13 steals, and was second on the team behind Hutto with 21 runs batted in for the 14-7 Lady Bulldogs.
Heilig had several favorite sports moments in the purple and gold.
“The high you get after winning a game, going to the state championship, and getting my first and second dinger in the same game,” she said.
The Class of 2022 graduate said she benefited a great deal from playing sports.
“Being active in sports during high school was the best decision I could make, and it made my experience a lot better,” she said. “It also gave me the chance to make many great memories and bonds with friends that will last a lifetime.”
Heilig, who finished third in her class, enjoyed her time at Bell.
“My high school experience was very fun and memorable,” she said. “It was filled with many great memories that I will always cherish.”
Heilig also got her CMAA license and will start the nursing program in August at Santa Fe College where she will pursue her RN license to become a labor and delivery nurse.