ELKHART — Kate Cobb can't imagine life without sports.
In the age of specialization in high school sports, the tough-as-nails Elkhart Central senior has become somewhat of a dinosaur, a top athlete in three different sports.
A libero for Central's Class 4A Final Four volleyball team in the fall, Cobb moved right to the diving board a few days after the Blue Blazers' volleyball season ended to dive for coach Ryan Bounds' swimming and diving team.
Now that it's spring, Cobb is not only playing shortstop for the Blazers' softball team, but she's also playing travel volleyball, which sometimes means more than five hours of practice in a day.
Oh, and she's one of the top students in Central's Class of 2014.
And she wouldn't have it any other way.
"I think every multi-sport athlete thinks about cutting down on their sports now and then, but it was never really an option for me," Cobb admitted. "I love competing, and playing sports isn't a stressful thing for me. I just love everything about it."
It wasn't stressful when Bounds came to her and told her she needed to finish in the top two in the crosstown match-up with Elkhart Memorial last winter — even though the Crimson Tide had one of the stronger diving teams in the area.
"I knew I could tell Kate that and she'd go out and get the job done," Bounds said. "She is just a fierce competitor, really one of the fiercest I've ever coached, even though you really wouldn't think so by looking at her."
And yes, Cobb nailed her dives and the Blue Wave kept bragging rights for another year.
When Central lost ace pitcher Cassie Shelton to a knee injury just prior to the start of the 2014 softball season, it was Cobb who rallied the troops for first-year coach Brent Bardo.
"Kate is not only as good a shortstop as I've seen in high school, but she's just a great coach on the field," Bardo said. "When Cassie went down, Kate got the team together on her own and tried to keep everyone focused on the season, even though it was very tough to see a senior classmate go down."
In a doubleheader with South Bend Adams earlier this month, Cobb sprained her ankle running the bases. Bardo knew he should take his star out of the game, but Cobb would have nothing of it.
"Kate wanted to play and was tough enough to do it, so I didn't try to talk her out of it," Bardo said. "I've been coaching for a long time, and to coach someone like her is a real blessing."
In junior high and through her freshman year, Cobb was a basketball player. But when Central diving coach Tom Adams, who also coached Kate's mother at ECHS, came to her and suggested giving diving a try, Cobb didn't hesitate.
"Well, they needed a diver and I figured I'd give it a try," Cobb said matter-of-factly. "I really learned to love it, plus, my mom became a volunteer coach with the team, which was also a lot of fun."
According to Cobb, fun doesn't even begin to describe the Blue Blazers' run to the state semifinals in volleyball, where they took the program's first sectional crown in 40 years and lost to eventual state champion Carmel in the semistate.
"Volleyball is my passion in sports, so for us to have the success we had was incredible," Cobb said. "We will always be the first Central volleyball team to win a regional title ... no one will ever be able to take that away. Plus, with the way our fans and really the community came out to support us, was something I'll always remember."
While her competitive nature and love of life shines through with nearly every word, Cobb is battling through some adversity.
"I was born with a heart condition and it will force me to wear a heart monitor for the next month,'' Cobb said earlier this week. "My heart sometimes will beat up to 200 times a minute, and when that happens, I know it's time to sit down for about 10 minutes and then I'm fine. The doctors are confident that I'm in no danger, especially since I know how to control it.''
Once she graduates in June, Cobb will be off to Huntington University in the fall to play volleyball for the Foresters. She chose Huntington over Bethel and Indiana Wesleyan and plans to major in exercise science.
"It has always been my goal to earn an athletic scholarship to play in college,'' Cobb said. "I looked at several different schools, but being a Christian, I didn't really want to play in a non-Christian environment for four years. So that helped make my decision easier."
So after Huntington's volleyball season is over next fall, will Cobb be lost without another sport?
"I have no doubt that it's going to be strange sitting in the stands at a college softball game and not be playing,'' Cobb said. "I probably could have played softball too, but college will be about playing volleyball, studying and eventually earning my degree. That's what's really important.
"But that doesn't mean I won't miss it.''