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Newfound athletic standouts look to compete in Australia

January 11, 2018
BRISTOL — Two outstanding female athletes from Newfound Regional High School have been invited to share their skills and talents next July through a friendly yet meaningful competition between U.S. and Australian high school students.

Sophomores Hayleigh Pabst and Amy Combs, both from Bristol, are now working hard for the opportunity to team up with other students their age from all across the United States when they meet head-to-head with some of the best high school athletes from Australia.

Pabst is a three-year member of the NRHS softball team who takes her sport seriously. "I've been playing softball since I could walk," she said.

Besides the spring softball season, Pabst works out year round to increase her skill levels while participating in basketball and other school activities as well. She said she typically pitches or plays shortstop for the team, but is a flexible player who can fill in wherever she may be needed.

"They can put me anywhere on the field and I'll do my best to get the job done," said Pabst.

Last summer, Pabst attended the esteemed Jennie Finch Softball Camp in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. Finch was an Olympic gold medalist in softball, and Pabst was thrilled to now only meet the star athlete but hold her gold medals as well.

"I really want to win one of those medals myself one day," Pabst said with a determined look.

While at the camp, she also caught the attention of two other U.S. Olympic softball players, Crystal Bustos and Toni Mascarenas.

"They worked with me then asked me to talk to my parents (about attending the Australian games) and email them back," Pabst said. "I did and they arranged for me to get an official invitation to be part of America's Team for softball."

She received that invitation in September.

"I was shocked. It was kind of a dream come true. I didn't think it would really happen," she said.

Eager to be a part of an international competition, Pabst immediately began fund raising for the trip in July of 2018 and hopes to reach her necessary goal of $5,008 by the March 1 deadline.

Amy Combs is a cross country and track star for NRHS who has also put her heart and soul into her sport. That effort also earned her the illustrious invitation to be part of the Down Under Track and Field team that will compete next summer in Australia.

Combs said she began running simply for exercise in sixth grade. One day, however, Ken Cutting, the father of one of her classmates, saw her run and encouraged her to join the cross-country team. It turned out that she was the fastest runner the middle school had at that time and Combs has been literally off and running ever since that fateful day.

A set back that first year came when she didn't initially make the track team as a sprinter, but that didn't discourage this determined young gal; it only served to spur her on.

"I realized I needed more training so I started running and practicing even more on my own. I eventually went from a time of 13 seconds in the 100-meter race to 12.5 seconds, which is now the school record," said Combs.

Her running career has earned her many accolades over the years in the 100-, 200-, and 400-meter races, along with the 4x100 and 4x400 team events. As a sophomore in high school, Combs is already the captain of the NRHS track team and Captain of the Sprinters, a title she hopes to hold through graduation.

As if that isn't enough, she has already been offered an athletic scholarship to Plymouth State University when she graduates in 2020, and hopes to use that towards a degree in law enforcement.

"I just basically love everything there is about running. It's so much fun and I'm so happy to be part of it all," she said.

Her invitation to Australia for the track team arrived just last week however. That has left her until only May 15 to come up with the airfare and registrations fees if she wants to join Down Under Sports in July. She said she is determined to meet that fundraising goal though.

"This is something I really want to do. I've already had videos conferences with some of my teammates from all across the country and I can't wait to meet them and compete with them as a team," Combs said.

Both girls are solid academic students, three-season athletes and still manage to hold down after school jobs as well.

Combs currently holds two jobs, one at Dunkin Donuts and another at Ragged Mountain Ski Area. She plans on putting as much of that of that money as possible toward her $4,700 registration and travel expenses but realizes she can't do it all on her own by May. To help boost her fundraising, she also created a Go Fund Me page, "Please Help Amy," where others can contribute to her goal.

Because of her early invitation, Pabst is much further along in her fundraising endeavor but is still working to meet her expected financial goal. She began by selling bracelets at school last fall, then hosted a booth for handmade cards, ornaments and Santa figurines at Santa's Village in December, and held a raffle for two scenic photos of Newfound Lake that were donated to her cause. This winter she also works weekends as a snowboard instructor at Ragged Mountain when she isn't out on the basketball court for NRHS.

Paired up now in their mutual goal to compete in Australia, the two girls have even more plans to help raise the money they need.

"We're working on a bake sale and we'll also be hosting a dance at Tapply-Thompson Community Center when we hope people will come out to support us," said Combs.

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