FAIRMONT — It’s a few hours before agame but Fairmont basketball player Christa Thorndyke hardly seems to have basketball on her mind.
As she walks around the Fairmont campus, she’s fresh out of a meeting of the Fairmont Youth Council, which had been working to make Christmas cards for a local retirement home. It’s one of several projects the club has helped out with. In time for Thanksgiving, the members also helped feed three families within the community.
Thorndyke, the club’s vice president, doesn’t take the responsibility lightly.
“You want to do good for yourself, but being able to help somebody and know that they’re doing good because you helped them that’s just a better feeling,” Thorndyke said.
It’s a leadership role she steps into every day when she gets to campus. Not only is the senior involved in numerous clubs, including Tornado Warning, Beta Club and Science Club, but she’s been a multi-year captain on the volleyball, basketball and softball teams at the school.
In each sport, she’s been a four year varsity starter, captaining volleyball for three years, basketball for two and softball for all four.
Her passion for both athletics and leadership was among the reasons she was chosen as November’s Mountaire Farms/Civitas Media Scholar Athlete of the Month.
The program’s mission is to highlight male and female senior student-athletes within Robeson, Scotland and Bladen counties who carry a 3.0 GPA or higher. Nominees need to also be recognized by their coaches for outstanding sportsmanship and perform with superior ability in athletic competition.
Each monthly winner receives a $1,000 college scholarship and becomes eligible for an additional $1,500 in college funds that is awarded in June to the male and female scholar athletes of the year.
“Christa is a personable and talented young lady who demonstrates exceptional leadership and academic ability which exemplify all the qualities that make her an excellent scholar and athlete,” said Michael Baker, the volleyball coach and athletic director at Fairmont.
The daughter of Fairmont coaches and former college athletes Sandy and Cindy Thorndyke, athletics have been a mainstay in Christa’s life since she was young. Not one to sit around watching television, she’d rather be working on her game.
Her attitude towards sports was developed when she was in elementary school and found herself looking up to the middle school girls her mom was coaching.
“I remember whenever my momma was at Littlefield Middle School and I’d be in the third or fourth grade and going over when she’d be practicing softball, and of course they were only in the eighth grade at the time, but I remember watching those girls and thinking ‘I can do that,’” Thorndyke said.
As she’s developed as an athlete, she’s understood the importance of being a good role model, especially with her younger brothers.
“My brothers look up to me more than I thought they did,” she said. “They want to be good people, I want to be the person they look up to.”
The approach is simply doing things the right way. To her it means being involved in the community, setting a good example and excelling in the classroom.
It often results in fitting in homework before and after practice, but it’s paid off in the form of a 4.55 weighted grade point average, 3.85 unweighted, which ranks her first in her class. She will be named a NCHSAA Scholar Athlete as a result of her work.
When play gets going, she’s a multi-time all-conference athlete and tends to be at the center of the action as both a guard and the setter for the Golden Tornadoes. She finished this fall as the school’s all-time assists leader in volleyball.
Combined with her role as captain, it forces her to keep a positive outlook, even as things get rough.
“Being the captain you have to stay level-headed,” Thorndyke said. “It’s hard at times because you’ll have people make bonehead plays or you’ll make a bonehead play yourself and say ‘Oh man, why did I do that?’ but you’ve got to bounce back because if you dwell on it the next play, it’s going to come back and get you again and it’s going to be even worse.”
Her future right now is unclear. She’s got several college applications out, including the University of North Carolina and N.C. State. but is also eying the possibility of trying for a walk-on role on the volleyball team wherever she goes, even just to see how she compares. She’s even looking at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke, where her mom is a member of the athletic hall of fame.
The one caveat is that she won’t sacrifice a quality education for another year on the court.
“My standard for my education is a four-year university,” she said.
Though her parents have already made their marks in sports, her ultimate goal is to leave one of her own.
“The more I’ve played, volleyball has become my passion,” she said. “If I could go to the next level and play volleyball, it would be great. My momma played baseball, my daddy played softball, so that can be their sport. Volleyball’s going to be mine.”