Krista Colburn remembered back to the fall of her freshman year in 2004. She’d moved from Mukilteo to Los Angeles and enrolled at UCLA. She was trying to fit in to one of the nation’s best fastpitch programs. And she felt a little over her head.
“I felt homesick that entire fall,” Colburn said. “But they say as soon as you make it to Thanksgiving and you go home and catch your breath, you’re good after that. And I started to feel more comfortable.”
That showed during the spring, when Colburn won a place in the starting lineup for the Bruins and went on to help the team to second place in the Women’s College World Series, being named to the all-tournament team along the way. Colburn followed that by being named an Amateur Softball Association first-team All-American in helping the Schutt Hurricanes to the Women’s Major Nationals championship.
For her accomplishments, Colburn was chosen as The Herald’s Woman of the Year in Sports for 2005.
“Kristen came into this program with a sense of mystery, thinking ‘Can I really compete and be an impact player at this level?’ ” UCLA coach Sue Enquist said. “There were a lot of people who doubted she could come here and be successful. I’m so proud of how she came in and took the game by the horns and competed for a position, won it and sustained it. She was a huge contributor for us.”
Colburn went to UCLA, a 10-time national champion, after setting 11 school records at Kamiak and being named The Herald’s Player of the Year in 2004. Colburn won a spot in the Bruins’ lineup and stunned everyone by going 8-for-8 to start her career.
“I never expected to get all of the time I got last year,” Colburn said. “It’s nothing something that you expect as a freshman coming into UCLA. You hope for it, but you can’t expect it.”
Colburn ended up playing every day, usually in right field or left field. She hit .294 with three home runs and 20 RBI hitting near the bottom of the lineup. She was versatile enough that she also pitched three games, going 2-0 and tossing a shutout. Her highlight in a season in which the Bruins went 40-20 was getting the game-winning hit over Cal in her first College World Series game.
“My first at-bat of the World Series, my legs were shaking I was so nervous,” Colburn said. “But you look around and see that your teammates are calm and you feed off of that. As a young player, you see that your teammates aren’t nervous and realize you shouldn’t be nervous. After that, I was really relaxed.”
“There’s a perception that if you don’t come from Southern California or are not on one of the two most popular under-18 teams, you aren’t destined for greatness,” Enquist said. “But Kristen comes from a family that has the mindset of championship greatness. We saw that from her, and so that’s why I wasn’t surprised by anything she did.”
Colburn followed up her freshman year with an even better sophomore season, which just came to an end when UCLA was knocked out of the World Series by Northwestern, ending its season with a 50-9 record. Hitting second in the order as the regular right fielder, Colburn batted .283 with four triples, seven home runs and 39 RBI.
“She did a terrific job for us,” Enquist said. “I don’t know anyone who can hit inside-out better than her, and I’ve seen a lot of players. She has an incredible drive to get better every day, and that’s huge.”
“This year was easier because I knew the drill, I knew how to handle my time better,” said Colburn, who is also excelling academically. “I was counted on a lot more, and I embraced that. I’m having a great time with the whole experience.”