NCAA Softball News

Competition and Rivalries Can’t Come Between Friendship – University of South Carolina Athletics

Heath and Cook as kids

Olivia Cook and Natalie Heath have been best friends since kindergarten. They grew up in the small town of Sharpsburg, Georgia, which has a population of less than 400 and gained some notoriety as a location for the filming of several episodes of The Walking Dead television series. Despite playing against each other at rival high schools, their friendship is alive and well as the sophomore infielders are teammates on South Carolina’s softball team.

“People on our team call us an old married couple,” Cook said with a laugh. “We may bicker with each other, but we’re always together. We show up to lift weights together. We run together. If one is invited somewhere, we’re both invited.”

“Yeah, you don’t see one without the other,” Heath said. “I think we’ve been through so much together, to the point that if we weren’t always going to be friends, it would have already happened,” Heath said. “I know it’s cheesy, but I really think of us as sisters at this point because we have truly been through absolutely everything together. I got hurt last year (shoulder), and it really took a toll on me. I don’t think I would still be here or doing my recovery process if it weren’t for her.”

Cook and Heath went to the same elementary school and started playing softball together when they were eight years old as Heath’s father coached one of the local teams. They would later win two travel ball national championships together.

Heath and Cook as kids

“We push each other so hard. We’re not the type of people that get jealous of each other.”

Natalie Heath

The two split at high school with Cook starring at East Coweta High School and Heath doing the same at Northgate High School in nearby Newnan, Ga., but the rivalry never got in the way of the friendship. The two had planned to commit to a different university early in the recruiting process, but they talked through it together and decided to put off that decision until much later in their careers.

“It was my junior year that I committed in October (to South Carolina), and she committed that following January,” Heath said. “I had planned to commit to South Carolina for a while, and I was really pushing her to do the same. I kept telling her it was a really awesome school and that she should come.

“I was in Sam’s Club when…

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