Flanked by her parents, Natasha Schade and Chris Young, Polk County senior Chloe Young signed a letter-of-intent Tuesday to play softball at Gaston College. Also present in back row, from left, were athletic director DeShane Briscoe, PCHS principal Michelle Bean and head softball coach Phillip Miller

Excitement. Relief. A bit of vindication.

Tuesday provided Polk County senior Chloe Young with a wide range of emotions as she signed a letter-of-intent to continue her softball career at Gaston College, making her decision official during a ceremony in the PCHS auditorium.

The opportunity to join a Rhinos program that has quickly established itself as a powerhouse in the national junior college ranks felt that much sweeter for Young after encountering doubters throughout her career.

“I’m just proud of myself for being here,” Young said. “Previous coaches have told me that they didn’t think I was good enough, or that they didn’t think I would make it to college.

“I proved them wrong, and I’m just proud of myself for that.”

A four-year starter for Polk County, Young earned all-state honors last season, hitting .411 with four doubles, five homers and 13 RBI. She leads Polk County offensively this season, hitting .548 with seven doubles and eight RBI in 10 games.

Helping drive her development has been the dream of playing at the college level and proving the naysayers wrong.

“I just worked hard to prove them wrong,” Young said. “I would ask my dad to take me to a field anywhere and just practice.

“And then I would work at my house. I have a batting tee, and I have a net that I set up every day and I practiced.”

It’s that level of dedication and effort that Polk County head coach Phillip Miller believes will serve Young well at Gaston College.

“She has a good work ethic, and as long as she continues to hustle like she does here, she’ll do fine,” Miller said. “I think she’s going to do well in the outfield. That’s what she plays for us and she tracks down a lot of balls.

“She’s going to do well there.”

Gaston currently owns a 33-5 record, competing at the Division I junior college level. Last year, in the program’s first full season, the Rhinos finished 43-10 and reached the National Junior College Athletic Association World Series.

“I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go to college for two or four years,” Young said. “So I decided to go for two years, plus the degree I’m going to get (in criminology) is only two years. If I want to pursue anything else, I can go to a four-year school and do two more years.”

Young is more than ready to begin that next part of her journey.

“I’m very excited, and I can’t wait,” Young said.