First Class: Courtney Wilson shines on the softball diamond and in the classroom

University of South Dakota center fielder approaching the end of her career with impressive stats and academic honors.

Courtney Wilson is leading the University of South Dakota softball team in batting average as of March 31, 2023.
Contributed / USD Athletic Department

VERMILLION – Courtney Wilson saw a lot of time in the lineup as a freshman for the South Dakota softball team and quickly established herself as a dependable cornerstone of the program. She came back for the bonus eligibility granted by the pandemic in 2022-23 and advanced into her last Summit League season having played in a total of 199 games as a Coyote.

That’s a lot of trips south in the spring and a lot of doubleheaders in the cold wind and mud of the Midwest in the months of March, April and May.

The Coyotes have access to the Dome this time of year to lessen the impact of a terrible spring but generally speaking college softball in the north country comes with a passion for the game or it doesn’t come at all.

“It’s important to stay positive about the conditions,” said Wilson, who grew up in Grand Island, Neb. “You have to realize the other teams are dealing with the same thing. When we have outdoor games coming up, we will practice in the cold, the wind and the rain.”

Wilson throws and bats left-handed and has settled in as the Coyotes’ center fielder the last two seasons after spending time at the corner outfield spots earlier in her career. She is hitting .326 this year to lead the team in that category and has stolen eight bases in nine tries going into USD’s three-game series at Kansas City this weekend.


Courtney Wilson is the center fielder for the University of South Dakota softball team, as of March 31, 2023.
Contributed / USD Athletic Department

As a two-time All-Summit League player with impressive academic honors, Wilson will leave the program having established a tradition of excellence at USD. She can hit, she can field and she gets a lot of As. It’s sort of a triple-crown for a softball player closing out a career.

“Yes, she’s a good softball player who means a lot to our program. She has accomplished a lot and she’s not done yet,” USD coach Robert Wagner said. “But more than that she is a good person. She has a lot going for her – she’s doing all the right things in life. Super-organized, super-responsible. If you were an employer looking for someone to work for you, there would be nobody better.”

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Wilson’s growth as a player has never really stopped. She came to USD without as much time devoted to club softball as most Division I players. In addition she also was an excellent basketball player and a state meet participant in the long jump and 100 and 200 meters for the track team.

“She came in as more of a speed and short-game kind of a player – and she still has that – but she has developed some power, too,” Wagner said. “She’s not going to hit 15 home runs for us but she’s going to hit some doubles and an occasional home run and drive in some runs. She can bunt when we need a bunt and steal bases. She’ll be able to do whatever we need.”

Courtney Wilson is a leader on the University of South Dakota softball team which is 2-0 in the Summit Conference, as of March 31, 2023.
Contributed / USD Athletic Department

When Wagner talked about what a great hire Wilson would be when she advances to real life, he wasn’t the only one in Vermillion who thinks that way. Wilson learned earlier this year that she is staying in town to teach fourth grade at Jolley Elementary School next year. It’s plainly evident that she is pretty fired up about the opportunity.

“I’ve wanted to be a teacher for as long as I can remember,” Wilson said. “It’s really great that I get my start in Vermillion at the school where I did my student teaching. I’ve had a lot of experiences at the school and I’ve made some great connections. I’m super-excited about it.”

Wilson’s own experience as a young student in Grand Island left an impression that remains. At a time when the country is dealing with teacher shortages, she is prepared to bring a special brand of enthusiasm to the classroom.

“My teachers were great, especially my fifth-grade teacher Joni Jaros,” Wilson said. “She was super-passionate about what she did. She made everyone love coming to school. I feel like I want to be that kind of person for my students. I want to show them how to love learning and how to love just being at school.”


It is with this kind of joy Wilson has greeted the challenges of playing softball at USD. There doesn’t need to be an off switch on liking what you’re doing.

“Playing at USD has truly been amazing,” Wilson said. “I would never pick another place to go to school. I’ve been really blessed with everyone I’ve met here, including teammates and coaches and everyone else. I’ve learned so much since I came in here as a little freshman.”

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