Heather Lefford Edborg
More than two decades ago, the late Heather Lefford Edborg was touring the east coast with her Shamrocks softball team. The Buffalo-based squad, which would go on to place fifth in the national tournament, happened to face a team from Stratford, Connecticut called the Brakettes.
Playing third base against the likes of U.S. Olympians Dot Richardson and Lisa Fernandez, Lefford — she will be referred to by her maiden name for the rest of this story — made quite the impression. So much so, apparently, that the Olympians affectionately called the Falconer native "Hoover” because they could not hit the ball by her.
That nickname could easily be applied to every one of Lefford's successes on the softball field. After all, she seemed to "vacuum up” pretty much every honor from her playing days at Falconer Central School, Erie Community College, Ashland University and from her time as a coach in Maine.
"I have been a head college softball coach at the Division I and II levels for thirty years," said Karen Linder, the head coach at Kent State University and the former head coach at Ashland University, "and I can honestly say that Heather was one of the best athletes that I have ever coached."
Lefford's accomplishments make her more than worthy of membership in that exclusive fraternity known as the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame.
Following are a few snapshots from her impeccable athletic career.
A three-sport star (softball, basketball and tennis) at Falconer Central School, where she was the Female Athlete of the Year in 1990, Lefford's softball career really began to blossom upon arriving at Erie Community College.
In 1991, she was an All-NJCAA Region III and All-Western New York Athletic Conference first team selection; was ECC's Most Valuable Player after leading all NJCAA players in RBIs (64, a school record) and pacing the Kats as well as being among the national leaders in batting average, runs, hits (school record), triples and home runs (school record).
In 1992, she repeated as an All-NJCAA Region III and All-Western New York Athletic Conference first-team selection and as ECC's MVP; led the Kats in batting average (.505); was both an NJCAA and a National Coaches Association All-American; and was named ECC's Female Athlete of the Year. Later that year, she was a member of the gold medal-winning team at the Empire State Games.
Upon transferring to Ashland University, Lefford picked up where she left off during the 1993 season, setting school records in doubles, triples (fourth in the country with nine), RBIs, batting average and slugging percentage on her way to earning all-conference and all-regional academic first team and Division II second-team All-American honors.
In 1994, she set school records in hits, doubles, triples, home runs, RBIs, stolen bases, batting average, slugging percentage, on-base percentage, fielding percentage and defensive assists on the way to collecting first-team Academic All-American and second-team All-American honors as a shortstop, culminating with her selection as the Ashland University Female Athlete of the Year.
After her collegiate days, Lefford coached softball at Kennebunk (Maine) High School, a program that advanced to the state final in 1998 and also earned a berth in the state tournament in 1999. She also taught at Thornton Academy from 1998-2013 where she coached swimming and was an assistant on the girls field hockey team.
Heather Lefford Edborg died in 2013. She was inducted into the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame in 2016.