Kallie Carmichael left a lot in New Sharon, Iowa.
She left her home, her friends, her high school and her boyfriend. She left her comfort zone.
Carmichael was a prominent high school athlete in New Sharon, a rural town of about 1,300 people west of Des Moines, Iowa, though everyone knew each other anyway. She ran track, played volleyball, was in the jazz band and choir, and garnered all–state honors in softball.
She was so well liked around town that when her father, Dan Carmichael, received a job transfer to Columbia, many people in New Sharon, including some the Carmichael family said it would have never expected to, offered to let Kallie stay with them. But the family wasn’t going anywhere without Kallie’s approval, Dan Carmichael said.
“At first I was excited, and I told them that I would go with them,” Kallie Carmichael said. “But I also told them that they’d probably have to drag me out of the house.”
The amount of people in her new city and school amazed Kallie Carmichael, now a senior at Rock Bridge High School.
“I felt like a number,” she said. “No one knew who I was, and it felt like no one cared.
“My parents went to teacher night in the middle of September, and some of my teachers didn’t even know who I was, and they (her parents) were really shocked.”
Things weren’t falling into place perfectly for Kallie Carmichael.
But she had a saving grace: softball.
“I was really low for a long time, like my first month here, because all I could think about was what I was missing out on,” she said. “Softball was kind of my getaway from everything. It relaxed me. All the girls just really helped with comforting, and helped me keep my mind off it (the move) by cracking jokes.”
Before the softball season, and shortly after she moved, three of her new softball teammates showed up on her doorstep. Seniors Kelsey Oerly and Jenny Smith and junior Ashley Farmer were the Rock Bridge welcoming committee, ready to show their newest teammate around her new city.
“She wouldn’t have survived without them,” Dan Carmichael said. “The girls really made a concerted effort to make her feel at home.”
Smith, who moved from O’Fallon the year before, made an immediate connection with Kallie Carmichael.
“She’s just a simple person and she can relate to just about anybody,” Smith said. “She’s an all-around awesome girl.”
Because she had been in a similar position before, Smith said she is aware of what her teammate is going through, and that meeting people is one of the toughest challenges.
“You can’t just say, ‘Hey, do you want to go out to lunch,’ because you don’t know if they really want to,” Smith said.
It didn’t take Kallie Carmichael long to win over the rest of her teammates. One thing she didn’t leave in New Sharon was her fantastic athletic ability. As the Bruins leadoff batter, she hit .360 and scored 18 runs, and Smith said she made a seamless transition onto the team
“Kallie was a pleasant surprise. She’s the best move-in that I’ve seen here in seven years,” Rock Bridge softball coach Joe Henderson said.
Despite that, it was obvious to Henderson that Kallie Carmichael was still having some difficulties.
“When school started, that’s when it got tough, because her other teams in Iowa — her volleyball team, football team, things like that — were playing, and that’s where her heart was,” Henderson said.
Carmichael said her parents let her go back to New Sharon once or twice a month, and the visits usually end the same way.
“It’s really hard, I probably cry every time, but it’s getting better,” she said. “I still miss everyone just as much, it’s just that I’m dealing with it better.”
Sometimes the visits yield encouragement, like when she returned to New Sharon for her old high school’s homecoming activities.
“I went back on the coronation night,” Kallie Carmichael said. “I walked into the auditorium and, all of a sudden, all of their heads just turned around and they were like ‘Kallie’s home, Kallie’s home!’” “It was nice knowing people miss me,” she said.
Now that her softball season is over, Rock Bridge lost in the first round of district play, Carmichael has set her sights on track. She competed in the 200- and 400-yard runs last season.
“Track is my passion sport,” she said. “I love running and competing.”
But as her senior year comes closer to ending, Kallie Carmichael has been thinking about her future, which she hopes will include attending college.
“I’m looking at MidAmerica Nazarene University, or some colleges up in Iowa,” she said.
She said she wants to run track or play softball while in college and eventually be a nurse.
In the meantime, Kallie Carmichael has just been trying to adjust.
“I’m getting along,” she said. “There are still times when I wish I could go back, things I miss, but you’ve got to press through.”