Tory Bennett may not be particularly tall, but she more than makes up for it with heart, guts, and determination.
Bennett, who is listed at 5-foot-7, has had a stellar career proving doubters wrong and letting her game do the talking.
“When I went into my freshman year, I was this little 4-foot-10 girl playing volleyball and basketball against 6-foot-tall[CIML opponents],” Bennett said. “Especially in basketball, I would be thrown around like a dummy. But over the years I’m glad I got thrown around like this.
“That’s what made me the brave and competitive athlete I’ve become.”
Bennett, a quadruple athlete at Fort Dodge Senior High, was recently named Fort Dodge Senior High’s top athlete for 2022. The future University of Iowa softball player was named a co-winner of the Florence Nordman Award along with her best friend and teammate Jalen Adams.
“Winning the Nordman Award is a great honor for me,” said Bennett. “This means that several coaches from different sports see me as the best athlete in my class. That feels great.”
This is only the second time in the school’s history that the award has been shared. Mary Fischbach and Melanie Broer were both awardees in 1983.
“I couldn’t have asked to share the award with a better person,” Bennett said. “Jalen works so hard in everything she does and she strives to do her best.
“She is one of the hardest working, bravest and most humble girls I know. It means the world I get to share with her.”
This is the second Nordman Award for the family’s trophy case. Bennett joins her sister Madi Bennett (2016) as only the second sister duo to achieve the feat. Mandy Pilcher (1999) and Mitzi Pilcher (1989) are the others.
“My sister has always been my role model: in sports, in school, or even in life,” Bennett said. “When she won the award, I wasn’t sure what it meant or how you got it, but I knew I wanted to get it too, just to be like her.
“I think it’s pretty cool that we’re one of only two sister duos to ever win the award.”
Bennett established her reputation as one of the best softball and basketball players in school history.
She served as shortstop for five years under head coach Andi Adams and was part of the historic rise to Class 5A for the Dodger program.
Bennett’s relationship with Coach Adams was unlike most, as Adams helped Bennett coach her from a young age.
“What Tory lacked in size, she made up for in speed, athleticism and instinct,” Adams said. “We put her in so many positions and she just fought. She even pitched when she was younger. We had the “Dudley” pitch for them because it was so slow you could read “Dudley” on the ball. But that was Tory… she would do whatever you wanted.
“She’s a real competitor. Whether it’s a state championship or a regular season game, she wants to win.”
Bennett, Adams and their classmate Haley Wills led the Dodgers in five straight state tournament appearances and three straight Class 5A appearances in championship games.
Adams recalls a game earlier this season where Bennett had to come out for an inning to check on an injury. When they found out it wasn’t serious, she was ready to go right back inside.
“It’s very rare for players to want to come back when they’re injured. They just say, ‘Take me out’.” said Adams. “We couldn’t do that. Tory knows her team needs her. She’s out there like a trainer; Sometimes she was called “Coach Tory”.
“It’s like talking to another coach. We discussed lineups and strategies together.”
The Dodger grad’s dream was realized in 2021 when Fort Dodge won the school’s first-ever state championship on the diamond.
In her career, Bennett had 248 hits and hit .429 in five seasons. She drove 150 carries, scored 217 goals and stole 104 bases as one of the top shortstops in Iowa. Bennett received first-team all-state recognition in 2022.
On the hardwood, Bennett engraved her name in the school’s record books as the fifth-best career goalscorer. She had 865 points, which is the fifth highest in FDSH history.
“I had Tory for four years and when she was ill she still wanted to train. I couldn’t have asked for a better athlete to train or play with,” said Dodger basketball coach Scott Messerly. “She would work hard the whole exercise and end up doing the line exercises. She would just go out and compete. She tried to make other players better around her.
“One of the best things about Tory was her ability to do what we had to do. If she knew someone couldn’t be guarded by a defender, she would feed them. She just wanted to win.”
Bennett was a standout on the volleyball and track teams even in her junior year.
Athletics were a big part of Bennett’s life, but schoolwork always came first.
“I think the most important thing is academics, closely followed by athletics.” said Bennett, who carried a 3.954 GPA. “I concentrated very much on my homework during the day and then went to sports training after school and then back to school in the evening.
“A strong work ethic is important in anything you do and I work hard at school to be able to achieve what I want to achieve.”
As she grew up, Bennett always leaned on her siblings to show her the way and instill in her the tenacity she needed to succeed. Madi was a top athlete in several sports; Drew was a state champion wrestler.
“My greatest role models are my brother and sister” said Bennett. “When I was little, I always wanted to be like her. I would join them and their friends and they always let me play the big kid games with them.
“They (Madi and Drew) threw me around like a little puppet, but I don’t think I would be as strong as I am if they didn’t push me around and teach me the concept of work ethic and determination as a young girl. ”
Whether it was for a ride, advice, or just some support, Bennett always knew she could count on her mother, Shawn, to nudge her in the right direction.
“My absolute role model is my mother” said Bennett. “She pushed me to be the athlete, student and person I am today and without her I wouldn’t be where I am today.
“She is the strongest and most loving woman ever. I hope to be as strong and a good mother as she is to my siblings and me.
“My dad (Troy) also always pushed me to do my best and never expected anything less than the best. He always believes that I can compete with the best athletes in the country without a doubt and I appreciate him for that.”
Adams, an English teacher at FDSH, has seen both sides of Bennett.
“Tory is a goal-oriented person,” Adams said. “In the classroom, she’s in the top five percent. She wanted to take very hard courses to push herself and challenge herself with math and science.
“You see it in all her roles that she has in the Dodger Senate and things like that (Bennett was the class president). She says I want to be a doctor and take care of people.”
With her dedication in the classroom and on the field, Bennett also has a softer side.
“If you look at some of the pictures, you usually see Tory smiling or laughing,” Adams said. “She’s not always a serious person. She uses this playful attitude to calm down.”
From start to finish, Adams watched Bennett grow into the athlete and student she is today.
“When she was younger, I had the players write down three things they were afraid of,” Adams said. “Tory’s list was – 1. Bridges; 2. spirits; 3. Coach Adams. One day she just looked at me and said, “Coach, you’re off my list.
“Once we got to a certain point, there was only a limited amount that I could train them in. She became the kind of player and leader I hoped and thought she could be.”
Though she’s now moving to Iowa City, Bennett will always remember the community that helped build and support her.
“There’s nothing I’ll miss more than being a Dodger and proudly wearing that uniform.” said Bennett. “The Fort Dodge community is unique. The support system that stands behind you unconditionally is something I don’t get anywhere else.
“I’m so thankful for my time as a Dodger and I wouldn’t trade any of it for the world. Thank you, Dodger Nation.”