For Sandy Creek, it all began with Jessica Yerdon.
She took a sport that was just another one of the school's offerings and turned it into the athletic program's trademark.
Now schools throughout the state know about Sandy Creek's softball success. In the nearly 15 years since Yerdon graduated from high school, the Comets remain a state power.
"To me she was the start of our very good pitching," said Molly Yerdon, Jessica's mother and a coach for the Comets both during and after Yerdon's tenure.
Jessica Yerdon was a leader from the mound, a natural talent who could will her team to victory. She would often punctuate her pitches with a small yell, an unintentional product of her competitive spirit. The left-hander compiled a 61-6 record during her five years on the varsity squad from 1990-94, helping the Comets advance all the way to the state championship game in 1993 and to the state semifinals two other seasons.
Yerdon dominated in the Frontier League, holding a perfect mark against league opponents. The Comets lost just one league game with Yerdon on the varsity squad, going 100-8 during her final four years. Yerdon finished with 651 career strikeouts and a 0.48 earned run average. She was named to the state team four straight years. At the plate, she hit over .400 for her career.
She became the model for a line of Sandy Creek pitching all-stars, including her immediate successor, her sister Margaret.
"Jessica was the ground-breaker," said her mother, adding that both she and Jessica learned about the sport together, helping to build the Sandy Creek area dynasty. "Margaret was the better pitcher because of Jessica."
Yerdon moved on to play NCAA Division I softball at West Point. She then served in the Army for five years until 2003. She earned her master's degree in international relations and teaches social studies at a high school in New Jersey. Yerdon lives with her husband, daughter and son in Hackettstown, N.J. She ran in her first marathon in September in Rochester.
She returns to Sandy Creek each summer to help with the Comets' annual softball clinics.
To read about previous selections to the Times' list of The North Country's Greatest 100 Athletes of All Time, log on to www.watertowndailytimes.com