Rider's Washington on Team Sweden
ABBA, IKEA and SOFTBALL
Students are often given the assignment of writing an essay titled “How I Spent My Summer Vacation.”
When given such a task, some students are lucky enough to write about their trips to Europe. Student-athletes often document their athletic adventures.
For the last six years, Rider University senior Kehli Washington has been able to do both.
A Preseason All-Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference softball player this year, Washington competed in the 2013 European Women’s Softball Championships, held in Prague in the Czech Republic in July.
Washington has competed for the Swedish National Team for the last six summers, and every other year competes for them in the European Cup.
A Psychology major fluent in Swedish, Washington is not your stereotypical Swede.
She does not drive a Volvo but her dorm room is full of IKEA furniture. She doesn’t eat herring (“I do not like herring at all,” Washington said.), but she does eat Swedish Meatballs. “We just call them meatballs,” Washington explained.
There are other artists on her iPod besides ABBA (“I liked ABBA,” Washington admits. “I enjoyed the movie Mamma Mia.”) but does not like the many ‘heavy metal’ bands that come from Sweden. (“I’m not into that at all.”). She doesn’t know the band ‘The Cardigans’. She isn’t even blonde.
Washington was born in Lulea, Sweden. “My Mom (Susanne) was born and raised in Sweden and my Dad (Kent) played professional basketball over there and then coached there,” Washington said.
Lulea (pronounced ‘Lu Lu’) is located on the coast of northern Sweden, right on the Gulf of Bothinia which separates Sweden and Finland, and is best known for producing model/actress Maud Adams. “It is a different lifestyle there,” Washington said. “The food is different. At home in New York my mother cooks the way people in Sweden eat. We live sort of a Swedish lifestyle here in America.”
Kehli came to the United States at the age of five years old and attended New Rochelle High School in New York, where she earned All-League and All-Section honors. She was recruited by Hofstra, George Mason and Army, but chose Rider.
“I really liked the Rider campus, especially in the spring,” Washington said. “It is just far enough away from home but close enough to where my parents can come watch me play.”
She began spending parts of her summers playing in Europe while in high school.
“My dad contacted a coach when I was in high school and they needed a second baseman, which is what I played in high school,” said the Rider centerfielder. “They invited me over and I played in my first tournament for them in Belgium. That was my tryout and it worked out.”
As a centerfielder/second baseman Washington helped the Swedish team place seventh in the European Championships this past summer, an improvement over the 11th place finish in 2012.
Team Sweden played in the same pool as Italy, Poland, Ukraine and France and finished second in its pool, reaching the final round of eight teams. In that round the Swedes lost 1-0 to Russia and 3-1 to Austria, but defeated Spain 6-4 in the battle for seventh place.
Holland defeated Italy for the 2013 European Championship. “The competition is very similar to Division I softball here,” Washington said.
During the Euro Championships Kehli was able to visit with her grandparents in Sweden before heading back to Prague for the rest of the European Cup Tournament.
Playing for Skovde, Washington has competed over the years in Holland and Italy, as well as Belgium and the Czech Republic. “I really enjoyed Italy,” Washington remembered, “because I got to go to the beach.”
The self-proclaimed ‘beach girl” looks to combine her athletic career with her major upon graduation.
“I’m interested in sports psychology,” Washington said of her future plans, but not until she reaches the 200-hit plateau. “With all of the games we had canceled this year it is going to be tough but that is the goal I set after my freshman year.”
As a sophomore at Rider she was a Second Team All-MAAC selection.
Last year as a junior she led the 2013 Broncs in batting (.349), hits (54), runs scored (34), stolen bases (24) and on base percentage (.410) to earn First Team All-MAAC honors.
She currently has 153 career hits, 17th most ever at Rider. “Kehli has been a great player and leader for us over the years,” said Rider head coach Tricia Carroll said. “She works very hard, has had a lot of success and has earned the respect of her teammates and coaches, as well as her opponents.”
After graduation Washington is heading back to Europe to again play softball, but this time to The Netherlands. “I will be playing on a club team there,” Washington said. “The Swedish team is allowing me to play for a club team in Holland. I don’t speak Dutch so that will be interesting.”
Making the adjustment from meatballs to cheese, from IKEA furniture to windmills and tulips, will be interesting, indeed.
At the very least a worthy topic for a good essay.