Star student-athlete shines on the diamond


Caden Bargowski

Utility Paige Berkmeyer gives a signal during a warmup throw on Mar. 29, during a game opposing Indiana State. Berkmeyer shares the impact playing for the Illini has brought to her up to her two year being a part of the team.

By Shawn Sloan, Contributing Writer

Illinois softball consists of a great group of student-athletes who, even through highs and lows, have found a way to make the best of it. For sophomore Paige Berkmeyer, this is more than a sport: This is a family.

Berkmeyer has blossomed during her time in Champaign, developing lifelong friendships and positive personal development along the way. Coming from Wadsworth, Ohio, softball was love at first sight. Berkmeyer started playing sports at the age of 4, when she was introduced to Tee-ball. As she got older, more sports started to present themselves in her life, but the same passion never left. Ultimately, she ended up staying with softball, which was arguably a pivotal moment in her life.

“It gave me a lot of experience in a lot of different things I have had to go through,” Berkmeyer said. “Growing up I thought things were going to be easy, but as I got older, I learned that you are going to hit a lot of battles along the way, but you are going to overcome them eventually.”

Majoring in animal sciences while also being an athlete is a challenge in its own right, as there are responsibilities from each side pulling Berkmeyer every which way. However, Berkmeyer believes she is built for the challenge, with the plan being to get a master’s degree and a doctorate following her time as an undergraduate student-athlete.

In high school, Berkmeyer was as big name as one can be, racking in awards left and right with some of her most notable accomplishments being named to the 2019 Suburban League All-Conference, First Team All-Medina Gazette and Best of Greater Akron Preps All-Star. 

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When it was time to take the next step and transition from high school to college softball, Berkmeyer was more than excited to come to play for Illinois, even mentioning that her love for this program was instant.

“When I first came for my visit, I committed here a week later,” Berkmeyer said. “(The coaching staff) cares more about who you are as a person along with who you are on the field. All the girls really bring you in and are welcoming as they let you know that these are our standards and this is what we do and I love it.”

The hard-hitting catcher was a big name during her freshman year, as she was named to the Big Ten All-Freshman team. In addition to that, she was a huge part of the team’s success as she played in 32 games for the Illini, along with starting 26 games as a catcher.

Berkmeyer pointed out that the culture of constant working and everybody buying into the core values has been essential in her and the team’s growth over the last two years, with her favorite culture builder being the whole team sprinting off the field every time.

The Illini have had an up-and-down season, with a record of 23-19 that has featured a particularly hard stretch over the last few weeks. Some would fold under this type of pressure to perform, but Berkmeyer is confident that Illinois’ camaraderie will help keep the team connected throughout the rest of the year as they look to finish the season strong.

Going into her junior year, Berkmeyer looks forward to making more memories with her team as they continue to grow on the field and improve for the future.


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