Athlete of Week: Conway’s Hemingway hits new highs

consoft-necipitchConway High’s girls sports teams are enjoying a record-setting year. So is Lady Tigers’ two-sport star Janecia Hemingway. Those two facts are not a coincidence.

After helping the Conway girls basketball program to its first-ever Class 5A Lower State championship game appearance, Hemingway made the transition from the hardwood to the diamond to lead the Lady Tigers to a first-ever district tournament title and region crown.

In true “Neci” fashion, she powered the Lady Tigers as a pitcher and a hitter, going 14-5 on the mound and batting .422 with eight home runs, 29 RBIs and 22 runs scored. Hemingway made all-state and was named the Region 6-5A player of the year for her well-rounded performance.

“It feels great to do something that hasn’t been accomplished here before,” said Hemingway, who added the title of Mammy’s Kitchen Athlete of the Week to her long list of awards this season. “I had a goal in both sports to make it to the state championship game and we came up a little short, but sometimes you have to lose to win again.”

Hemingway hasn’t done much losing lately, and she showed a gusty determination down the stretch to send Conway into the Lower State softball tournament. The Lady Tigers battled their way out of the losers’ bracket as Hemingway pitched and hit Conway to three straight wins in elimination games – all coming by one-run margins – to win the district crown.

“Neci has been a very valuable part of our success this year,” Conway coach Mike Skipper said. “She has been a driving force in us winning our first region championship as well as the district championship. She’s had a great season on the mound and at the plate and is very deserving. We look forward to her senior season next year.”

That’s right, Hemingway has one more year to reach her goals, which have become a bit of a moving target. Despite her already impressive list of accomplishments and team firsts, Hemingway hopes to break those marks next year in both basketball and softball. “It just made me hungrier,” she said. “Next year I want a state championship in both sports.”

Hemingway, who plays basketball and softball year-round and often trains for both on the same day, may have a tough decision ahead after going for her senior goals. College recruiters are undoubtably going to offer scholarships in each sports, but will she have to pick one to focus on? If so, which one would it be? Or would she pick a school that would allow her to do both?

“I still have to decide about that. It’s going to be tough because I love to play both,” she said. “I just want to keep playing both and focus on getting better. Over the summer I play basketball and softball, and I work on pitching and hitting at home and at practice. The only down time I get is sleep time.”

She attributes her work ethic to her family and what they call “the Hemingway hustle,” and it’s hard to argue with the results. Elder sister and Conway girls basketball coach Shamae set the all-time scoring record at Coker College, and elder brother Junior is a wide receiver for the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs. Younger brother Tonka is a standout for the Tigers’ football and basketball teams.

“It’s the Hemingway hustle,” she joked. “My brothers and sisters, we always joke around who can do better than the other one in different sports and we push each other to get better, but we’re a tight family. I just like making my mom and dad proud.”

And the whole city of Conway.

Photo by Chuck Silvey

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