DRAIN — Natalie Thompson stays busy as a student-athlete at North Douglas High School.

The 15-year-old is pretty much a cowgirl throughout the year, practicing and competing in rodeo.

Thompson, who stands 5-foot-6, was a member of the North Douglas volleyball team during the fall and is currently a starting post for the girls basketball team.

The seventh-ranked Warriors lead the Class 1A Skyline League North with a 9-1 record and improved to 18-4 overall following a 41-14 nonleague win at 2A Glide on Saturday.

“I don’t want to be focused on one thing, I like to compete in different sports,” Thompson said during an interview before basketball practice Thursday.

Thompson is happy to be active again in school sports. She missed her freshman season following a serious accident on Aug. 25, 2017.

Natalie was a passenger in a truck driven by her older brother, Austin. They were hauling a horse trailer and were involved in a wreck on Interstate 5 south of Cottage Grove.

Natalie and Austin survived, but both suffered significant injuries in the accident. She sustained a broken femur, dislocated hip and broken right hand. Five horses were killed.

“I remember getting on the freeway and ending up in the hospital,” she said. “That’s all I remember from that day.”

One and a half years later, Natalie is enjoying life like a teenager is supposed to. She had a screw inserted in her leg, but that hasn’t stopped her from being a competitive volleyball and basketball player.

“(Physically) I’m doing great,” Thompson said. “I feel like I’m 100 percent. I’ve got my family and friends behind me.

“(The leg) doesn’t affect me. If I feel pain I don’t think about it and keep playing. I bite my tongue and hope for the best.”

Thompson has played a major role for the Warriors in her first season of high school basketball.

An undersized post, she’s averaging 10 points and five points a game. Thompson had eight points and six rebounds in Saturday’s win.

She’s brought a positive attitude and work ethic to the program that North Douglas coach Jeff Davis appreciates.

“An incredibly great kid. An outstanding outlook,” Davis said. “Natalie is the most consistent person I’ve been around in a long time. Her demeanor, effort and smile seldom change.

“She’s tough as nails. I knew she was competitive, but could’ve never imagined she’d have the impact she’s had on our group this year. She’s a good teammate and fun to be around. You’ll never find anybody say a bad word about her.”

Thompson has scored in double figures multiple times, including 17 points in a 43-19 Skyline win over Elkton.

“We play her at a 4 or 5,” Davis said. “She gets matched up against one of the top players on the other team. She’s a terrific defender and she’ll be a good shooter given time. She gets points quietly.”

“I just like that basketball is a team sport,” Thompson said. “Everybody works together. It’s a fun sport.”

When Thompson was asked about any highlights on the court this winter, it wasn’t about the numbers or wins.

“Just coming to practice and seeing everybody smile,” she replied, “and knowing I made the right choice (to play basketball). I try my best to be competitive. Our team is one ... I just move on to the next play if I make a mistake.”

In volleyball, Thompson split time between the varsity and junior varsity. North Douglas turned in another successful varsity season under coach Anne Campbell, placing fifth at the 1A state tournament and finishing 27-8 overall.

“I just liked the team, how we worked together,” Thompson said.

Campbell brought up enthusiasm when speaking about Thompson.

“Although we had to share her with rodeo, she came on strong, considering she missed her freshman season,” Campbell wrote in an e-mail. “Natalie’s a focused and determined athlete, with natural talent and ability.

“I love this girl! She’s always an inspiration to her teammates, and is so enthusiastic that you can’t help but get caught up in her enthusiasm. I anticipate she’ll be one of the best all-around players on the team next year.”

Rodeo, though, is Thompson’s first love.

It runs in the family. Natalie has been involved in the sport since she was 3 years old.

“My dad (Randy) put me on a horse, and I just started liking it,” she said. “I just grew up with the rodeo life. I like how many friends I have through rodeo and you click with your family more.”

Thompson competes in team roping, breakaway roping, barrel racing and goat tying. Team roping is her favorite event. Thompson and her team roping partner, Riley Fry of McMinnville, are currently second in the Oregon High School Rodeo Association season standings.

Thompson is 11th in all-around. The state finals will be held June 12-15 in Prineville.

“I work hard, I have to practice for it,” Thompson said. “I probably put three hours every day into it. Rodeo never wraps up. My dad and mom (Deanna) coach me and my brothers coach me, so my family’s my coach.”

Sports Editor Tom Eggers can be reached at 541-957-4220 or email teggers@nrtoday.com.

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Sports Editor

Tom Eggers is the sports editor for The News-Review. He can be reached at teggers@nrtoday.com or 541-957-4220.

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