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Taylorsville Journal

A Bruin is headed to Tokyo Olympics

Nov 12, 2019 03:31PM ● By Greg James

Tarni Stepto stepped off the plane last January in Salt Lake City to freezing temperatures and snow. She eventually was named an All-American and as a member of the Australian National team qualified for the Olympics. (photo courtesy of Salt Lake Community College)

By Greg James | [email protected] 

Australian softball has come to the Salt Lake Community College. 

In September, Bruins Sophomore Tarni Stepto was a member of the Australian National team that clinched a spot in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, Japan. 

“It is an indescribable feeling,” Stepto said. “I started playing when I was 4 years old. My passion has always been softball since I was a little girl. Then I learned about the Olympics, and that was my aspiration. I am one step closer; we have qualified, and now I need to be selected for the team. It is a feeling of relief, and now I have to put my foot down and work hard for the next couple of months to be sure I have a spot on the team.”

Stepto arrived in Salt Lake City last January. Her plans were to play at SLCC for one season, redshirt this spring so she can participate with her national team and then return to the United States next fall to attend Oregon State. 

“She is awesome,” Bruins assistant coach Tara Bendt said. “She has been a great leader. She was injured when she first got here and later became our leading hitter and best pitcher.”

Stepto is from Sydney, Australia. For SLCC, she threw 75 innings, had 126 strikeouts and finished with an 11-3 record. She also hit .492 and had 16 home runs. 

“We had a great team last year,” Bendt said. “We did not finish as well as we wanted to. Her experience at the Australian qualifier was incredible. She came back so much more mature. She is a leader on and off the field.” 

Having an international player on the team has become an invaluable experience. The majority of the Bruins roster is local players.

“Honestly, I feel as if I have the opportunity to help make the other players better,” Stepto said. “I am not here in the spring, but I feel I can contribute in so many ways.”

In January, she will join the national team to train for the Olympics next summer. She will continue her studies online and will be eligible to graduate with an associate’s degree next spring.

“Having her on the team opened these girls up to what it is like outside of Utah,” Bendt said. “It is a different game. She has a different mindset. Her dreams have been the Olympics. It was cool for the other girls to see that.” 

Fall softball for SLCC is an opportunity to help players adjust to the college experience and get valuable playing time. They have played approximately 30 games against local Division I schools and competition teams. 

“We have a lot of talent,” Bendt said. “There are good days and bad days. It is all new; some are out on their own for the first-time balancing school, softball with games and practice and doing their own laundry. It is an adjustment. I think we have a lot of upside.” 

Stepto’s playing time with the Bruins has been a stepping stone for her career.

“This experience has really helped me in the process of becoming a Division I athlete,” Stepto said. “I have learned that getting good grades and how to be better in school is really cool. I have learned to push through and grind. We have some long days of up early, lifting and conditioning then class and practice. Then we somehow have to study in the evening. I have learned to time manage.”

Maintaining relationships with other coaches has become an important recruiting tool for the Bruins.

“It is well-known that we have a good program,” Bendt said. “We reach out to them so we can help these girls move on.” 

“Utah is a beautiful place,” Stepto said. “It is cool to experience a different country. It was mind-blowing to see snow for the first time.” 

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