It took Caroline Penner no time whatsoever to establish her place in Capital High School’s history as one of the finest soccer players the school has ever seen. Her talents emerged the moment she stepped on the field as a freshman, and now, as a junior, her name alone evokes a sense of stardom.

It would not be an exaggeration to admit that in the midst of a raging pandemic, trying to excel in a sport is not the easiest task to accomplish. However, while the rest of the world may have shut down, Caroline Penner certainly has not. When asked what the most important tool to success in a sport is, Caroline instantly answers: “Perseverance.”

“The most important thing you can do to be successful in a sport is to never give up,” she says. “Building back from a low is one of the best ways you can grow.” If there has ever been a testament to this statement, it would be continuing to pursue your dreams in a socially distanced world. And this is exactly what Caroline is doing.

While she may have gained fame at Capital as a freshman, her journey started over a decade earlier. According to Caroline, soccer entered her life at the age of three. It was, without a doubt, love at first sight.  “My mom remembers me saying when I was little, ‘I just love lacing up my cleats and smelling the grass.’” Caroline says.

Caroline gets a chance to show off her dribbling skills she practices frequently every day. Photo courtesy: Penner family

Kathleen Penner, a soccer player herself who still holds the record at Olympia High School for most goals in a season and who played for the University of Washington, was the first coach Caroline ever had. Her mother has been a constant source of inspiration for her. Caroline gushes over her family, saying they have always been the first people to encourage and push her forwards. She attributes a great deal of her success to them, but at the end of the day, true achievement comes from her own unwavering commitment.  “I practice more than 14 hours a week,” Caroline says.

She starts with dribbling skills, and works her way up to shooting and corner shots resulting in about two and a half hours of practice per day, often in the freezing rain.

Leslie Merchant, a community member, remembers driving by Capital High School’s field in the last month to find a mud splattered and drenched Caroline Penner practicing soccer moves in the pouring rain. “Now that is dedication,” Leslie says.

Here is a picture displaying what I like to call the signature ‘Penner header.’ She says one of her proudest soccer moments happened when she scored a goal against the best state team (South Cal). Even better, the goal was off of a header. Photo courtesy: Penner family

It appears Caroline is right in naming perseverance as the most important aspect to success. While school soccer may be cancelled, she still plays and practices constantly with her club team (in which her mom is the coach). She admits one of the most difficult parts of soccer is the amount of social time she has had to sacrifice. She’s also had to learn excellent time management skills simply to maintain her sparkling school grades.

According to Caroline, it is all worth it. “Honestly soccer has just made me a better person,” she shares. “I do not know who I would be without it. You get to bond with your team. Getting the exercise and going outside just makes you so happy. It’s an amazing experience that teaches you a lot about life and how to work with people.”

There is no doubt Caroline will continue to grow and achieve on the field with each passing day. She has verbally committed to playing for Seattle University. For now, Caroline Penner continues to rise in spite of any and all obstacles in her way.

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