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Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Cheney signs with Augsburg for softball

David Colburn
Posted 5/31/24

FIELD TWP- While North Woods senior River Cheney has been a standout three-sport athlete for the Grizzlies, there was never any question that softball was the sport she wanted to keep playing, and …

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Cheney signs with Augsburg for softball


FIELD TWP- While North Woods senior River Cheney has been a standout three-sport athlete for the Grizzlies, there was never any question that softball was the sport she wanted to keep playing, and she will as a member of the Augsburg University Auggies next year.
The Auggies are a team on the rise, having just tied the school record for most wins in a season with 26 and putting together back-to-back seasons with 20 or more wins. Head Coach Melissa Lee is glad to have Cheney joining the mix as the private Lutheran university squad homes in on making a run for the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Association title next year.
“We think River will be a great fit at Augsburg both academically and athletically,” Lee said. “We believe River is a hard-working student athlete who will do what it takes to earn a spot. We love multi-sport athletes – they have been some of our highest achieving kids in the past.”
Hard work and high aspirations have been hallmarks of Cheney’s softball career at North Woods.
“It’s been an honor and a privilege to coach River over the years,” said Grizzlies Head Coach Dee Ann Sandberg at Cheney’s recent signing. “She’s an athlete who does whatever you ask her to do, and it’s nice to have an athlete who will go above and beyond. She’s grown tremendously throughout the years. She helped me with summer coaching with Becca (Bundy) with the little kids, showing them what softball is all about.”
Cheney knows all about the importance of a good early start, having embarked on her playing career as a youngster by playing tee ball with her brother Zach, and coached by her father Neil. A sports-loving family, the Cheneys invested in a pitching machine for Zach, but River was right in there hitting with him.
“I looked out the kitchen window one day and they were taking turns batting,” Neil said. “One of them would hit it and the dog would go retrieve it and bring it back, and they’d wipe it off and put it back into the pitching machine.”
“We’ve invested in sports camps and equipment and all that,” said River’s mom, Liz Cheney. “We’ve spent many, many miles in the car for both our kids. We wanted to make sure our kids had the best opportunity. It’s hard to get noticed up here in northern Minnesota. We were willing to do whatever we could for them until they were done chasing their dreams.”
The investment has certainly paid off. Zach continued playing after high school at Minnesota North College – Vermilion, and now River will build on the family’s collegiate ball-playing legacy.
“Seeing him being able to go on further to a higher level than high school gave me the confidence to go do that, too,” Cheney said.
Cheney was a steady rock for the Grizzlies’ volleyball team and a 1,000-point career scorer for the basketball team, coached by her mom, but neither sport captured her the way softball did.
“I loved basketball, and I loved volleyball, but softball has always been my love,” Cheney said.
Like everything else these days, college recruiting has gone high tech, an advantage for small-school players like Cheney to get noticed and make connections. She used NCSA, the world’s largest online recruiting service, filling out her player profile and uploading game films.
“They (Augsburg) popped up on my list and I filled out a recruitment form for them. The next day I got a text and we started texting back and forth.”
And it quickly became apparent to Cheney that Augsburg was just what she was looking for.
“They were really concerned about me and how they would develop me as a player, and I was really looking for coaches that would help me build my skills,” Cheney said. “It just happened to be the perfect school and the perfect program for me.”
And according to her dad, the Auggies are getting more than just a gifted first baseman and a power hitter – they’re getting a serious student of the game.
“She loves the sport, and she knows the sport,” he said. “She isn’t just a player, she sees a picture of the game going on, not just her position. She sees what the whole team needs to do, and she can adapt to that. That’s very important.”
Cheney is approaching her role with her new team with a good measure of patience.
“I’m hoping I can fit in as soon as I can, but if it takes a few years I’m totally OK with that,” she said. “I’m going to be working as hard as I can to move up in the program and be one of their key players, but if I’m not I’ll just keep working and keep moving forward.”
Like many of her fellow Class of 2024 graduates, Cheney plans to pursue a career in a helping profession, specifically music therapy, although as a veteran performer in North Woods productions, she hasn’t entirely ruled out the possibility of looking into musical theater. But whatever direction she chooses, Cheney’s likely to find the same success she’s found on the softball field.
Meanwhile, Sandberg had a surprise to reveal at the signing. She said she had just learned that Cheney had made the Class A all-star team and will have one more high school game to play in before she becomes an Auggie.
“That’s exciting,” Sandberg said. “She’s the first athlete in softball who’s done that.”