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Former Sierra sprinter gives up softball for track scholarship
Shakira Lewis, surrounded by Sierra head track and field coach Nate Diamantine (clockwise, from left), sisters Shaiqua and Shawn, athletic director Anthony Chapman and mother Helena, has accepted a partial scholarship to compete for Fresno State. - photo by JONAMAR JACINTO

Shakira Lewis traveled to Colorado with hopes of capturing the attention of college softball coaches in late June.

The Sierra High graduate got what she wanted. Sort of. She did return home as a signed NCAA Division-I athlete — in track.

Lewis was all set to compete in a college showcase with the Runnin’ Rebels Gold fastpitch team until her future changed with a phone call. Her mom, Helena, informed Shakira that she had a week to sign a letter of intent to accept a partial scholarship from Fresno State.

“That’s when I decided I’m going to do track,” she said.

Lewis, an accomplished outfielder and speedy top-of-the-lineup threat, will have about 70 percent of tuition covered by the scholarship, with financial aid taking care of the rest. She will move this weekend and meet with her new coaches and teammates next Tuesday, Aug. 21.

Lewis helped Sierra’s softball team earn its first Valley Oak League and Sac-Joaquin Section championships as a junior and decided to run track this past spring. Good decision, though a tough one.

“It was hard to turn in all my equipment to the summer ball team,” Lewis said. “I gave up the sport I loved and played for 12 years, but I’m getting to really love track. I’ll always have (softball), though. I think I can just always go out to (Big League Dreams), play in an adult league and have fun down the road.”

Lewis first came in contact with Fresno State coaches during the California Interscholastic Federation State Championships, where she broke her own school record (11.91 seconds) in the 100-meter dash and placed eighth in the final heat. She is the first Sierra female sprinter and just the second Sierra athlete in school history to advance to the finals. Her fastest 200 time (25.83) is also a Sierra record.

Lewis topped both marks at the Golden West Invitational a week after the state meet, but her times of 11.72 and 25.67 were wind-aided. They still impressed Fresno State head coach Scott Winsor to commit a scholarship to the first-year wonder.

“During the first couple weeks of conditioning we didn’t know what kind of speed she had, but we knew she was a great athlete,” said Sierra head coach Nate Diamantine. “She was the hardest worker out there. Everything I’ve asked her to do she did it to the best of her ability.”