Senior Spring: Kristen Rumley ’15 leaves a legacy on the mound
Softball captain Kristen Rumley ’15 has had one of the greatest careers in Big Green softball history. She now holds the all-time records for strikeouts with 669 and wins with 46, has pitched the most innings in program history and was the first player to be named the Ivy League Pitcher of the Year for three consecutive years.
During the recruiting process, however, Dartmouth nearly did not get to her in time.
At the end of Rumley’s junior year of high school, she received a scholarship to play softball at the University of Texas at San Antonio. The University was also relatively close to her hometown of Katy, Texas. Rumley verbally committed but waited to signing her letter of intent.
“The only reason I would ever back out is if I do get accepted into an Ivy League school,” Rumley said of her thinking at the time.
During her senior year, Rumley had one last tournament in Houston. She told San Antonio that she would officially commit if she did not hear from other schools after the tournament.
The tournament came and went without any news, and Rumley prepared to call the coaches after practice.
“I was on my way to batting lessons on Monday night,” Rumley said. “I [got] a phone call from the Dartmouth coach, and she was like, ‘Have you committed?’”
Dartmouth’s then-head coach was Rachel Hanson, who departed the Big Green after Rumley’s junior year at the College to take the same position at Stanford University.
“She contacted me the next day and was like, ‘We can get you in, are you interested?’” Rumley said. “I committed to Dartmouth without having met the coach, without having been up here.”
Rumley was born in California, but she was raised in the Texas suburbs. She began her athletic career playing soccer but switched over to softball around seven or eight years old.
“I was horrible actually,” Rumley said. “I sat the bench, I never played and I started in the outfield, and then I moved to first base when I started to actually be OK.”
An only child, Rumley was very close with her parents, who played a big part in fostering her love of sports.
“I’m a dad’s girl — did the whole Indian Princesses [YMCA program] with my dad, camped with him,” Rumley said.
In junior high, Rumley wanted to switch to pitching. Rumley’s skills on the field were improving quickly, and she was bored of playing first base.
“[I] would just wake up in the morning at 6 a.m., spinning a ball while I was sitting on my bed, still half asleep,” Rumley said.
Still, her father, a former high school catcher, was reluctant to let her.
“He said, ‘Okay, you need to sit in your room spinning a ball for six months. If you do that every single morning, then we can start to pitch,’” Rumley said.
He served as her pitching coach and had a mound in the backyard for her to practice. Most days when he got home from work, he and Rumley would toss a ball around.
“Both of my parents were super supportive,” Rumley said. “My mom was always that ‘team mom,’ all gung-ho, always placing orders for uniforms. [She] was very, very involved. My dad was always the athletic side of it.”
Rumley played on her high school team as well as a summer traveling team, the latter being more important to her recruiting process because of the opportunities to play in showcases and national qualifiers.
Rumley said she never dreamt of playing for a school like the University of Texas or Texas A&M University, but simply wanted “any opportunity [she] could get.”
While she nearly became a UT San Antonio Roadrunner, Rumley was always interested in playing at a private school, in part due to academics.
“I didn’t really know much about Dartmouth in general,” Rumley said. “I just knew it was an Ivy League, it was a really good school and the coach was from Houston.”
Rumley committed to play for the Big Green in October of her senior year, and was able to visit Hanover the next month, which unfortunately coincided with final exams on campus. Luckily, she was able to visit again later on.
“Nobody was all too thrilled to be hosting a recruit on campus during finals week,” Rumley said. “But, when I came up with my family we drove around and it was just gorgeous.”
While her hometown is halfway across the nation, Rumley was not bothered by the move. As an only child, she says that she was adjusted to being alone at times.
“I’m very much an individual, so going halfway across the country didn’t really scare me,” Rumley said.
Her freshman year, the softball program was in the midst of a culture change.
“Our team my freshman year here was very different from what it is now,” Rumley said. “When I came in, I knew we weren’t all that good, but Coach Hanson had only been here for a year and she was trying to turn the program around.”
Dartmouth had not clinched the North Division, which consists of Harvard, Yale and Brown Universities, since the 2008-2009 season, when the Big Green lost the Ivy League championship series to Cornell University. When Rumley arrived on campus, the softball team had yet to win an Ivy championship.
Rumley said that workouts became harder and commitment to the team became increasingly important during her freshman year. The atmosphere shifted from Ivy League students that picked up softball for fun to a more serious focus on competitive play.
“It wasn’t just about having fun and having a great time,” Rumley said. “It was more about fighting to win an Ivy Championship.”
Her first year, the team finished 14-25 overall and 7-13 in the Ivy League, and Harvard clinched the North Division for the third straight year. The next year saw continued improvement as the team finished 26-20 overall and 15-5 in the Ivy League, yet still finished second behind Harvard for the division title.
Along the way, however, Rumley was quickly emerging as one of the stars of the program. As a freshman, she won the team’s MVP award and was named to all-Ivy honorable mention. Her sophomore season, she was a unanimous all-Ivy first-team selection and was named the Ivy League Pitcher of the Year, setting Dartmouth single-season records for strikeouts and wins with 185 and 22, respectively.
With the emergence of the Class of 2016 as strong players, everything fell in place for the Big Green in the 2013-2014 season. The team finished 31-19 overall and 18-2 in the Ivies, brining home the program’s first Ivy League Championship. Rumley picked up her second consecutive Ivy League Pitcher of the Year award, broke her own strikeout record with 197 and hit the game-winning two-RBI double to clinch the championship against the University of Pennsylvania.
“Just to know that [through] all the hard work we put in our entire lives, we changed a program — that was just the best feeling in the world,” Rumley said.
This past season, the Big Green defended their title against Penn once more, sweeping the Quakers in two games while allowing just one run Rumley also pitched the fifth no-hitter in program history — and the first of her career — on March 28 against Columbia University.
Rumley was recently awarded with the Kenneth Archibald Prize, the College’s highest athletic honor awarded to “the member of the graduating class who has been four years in attendance, who has been the best all-around athlete, regard also being had to moral worth and high standing in scholarship.”
Nonetheless, the first title in school history was still the sweetest memory for Rumley.
“The cliché answer is winning the first Ivy League championship,” she said. “That was by far the best moment ever.”
Rumley also contributed inside the batter’s box, hitting her only two home runs of the year in two separate games on April 4 against Cornell.
“She hit two home runs this year in the same [day],” teammate Maddie Damore ’17 said. “She calls herself now ‘the home-run hitter.’”
Damore also recalled a story about Rumley’s fielding prowess.
“During one of the games, there was a ball hit to her side… [Pitchers] field their position, but the joke is to ‘stay inside your circle,’” Damore said.“But, she came out of the circle, bare-handed the ball and got the out. She was super excited about it.”
In the classroom, Rumley took some time before she figured out what field suited her best.
“When I came in my freshman year I wanted to become a veterinarian and work with big cats, and now I’m not doing any of that,” she said.
Rumley will graduate this spring with a major in anthropology and a minor in sociology. Up until the end of her sophomore year, Rumley had planned on becoming an economics major.
“I loved it. I liked the material, but I sucked at it,” she said.
In terms of balance, Rumley said that the first two years were the most difficult because she was still finding her bearings. Once she found that balance, however, she was able to appreciate her experiences.
“I knew that this was going to be my last four years of softball, so I really wanted to enjoy that,” she said.
Her dedication transferred into leadership skills as the team captain. Rumley also served as co-captain her junior year.
“She is a great example of leading by example,” Damore said. “She’s not very boisterous and she doesn’t outwardly express, but she very much so leads by example and she does a great job of that.”
Her experience will translate well to her next job — an assistant coach for the Dartmouth softball team. Rumley will continue to be a part of the sport that she loves and the program that she has already given so much to after she graduates.
“I think just enjoying my experience here was really what I wanted to live by,” Rumley said, “and that’s what I did.”