She says she was fortunate to play on teams that were very good.

We believe that the teams were very good because of her excellent play.

The facts are that Carol Kokotajlo-Navarro made teams better.

"Carol was an absolute pleasure to coach," said former Steinert High School girls' basketball coach Bob Hutchinson. "She brought energy combined with a positive attitude to our team every day. She provided constant leadership that everyone around her responded to.

"Carol was a fearless competitor who never backed down or gave up. Regardless of the sport or the situation, Carol played hard and always had a smile on her face."

Coach Hutchinson was there to greet the young woman when she landed at Steinert in the winter of 1983. He was aware of her athletic prowess since she had been super successful as a student-athlete at Neshaminy High (Langhorne, Pa.).

"Change is good," said Carol, who faced the transition of moving during her high school years with grace. "It makes you better."

And, as she has been so many times in her life, Kokotajlo was up for the challenge.

"(The coaching staff) worked us out hard," she remembered. "I enjoyed being pushed."

She earned five varsity letters at SHS and three at Neshaminy as she completed a banner high school career. Throughout her youth, she played a variety of sports, including field hockey and soccer and obviously basketball, but it was softball that cemented her entry into the SHS Athletic Hall of Fame.

She helped the Spartans capture back-to-back Mercer County championships in softball. As a junior, she was named Co-Player of the Year in the Trenton area daily newspapers as she pitched well and hit at a .491 clip. She followed up her all-star junior year with a strong senior campaign at Steinert including a .950 fielding percentage and five doubles and two triples and she received Athlete of the Year and Spring MVP recognition.

The next stop for Kokotajlo was Rutgers to play field hockey and softball. As a sophomore, she did some soul-searching and left the Scarlet Knights. "I was thinking of my career," she explained. "I wanted to go into broadcasting."

Although the broadcasting career never materialized - her professional path took her into working 30-plus years in government service -- she did continue to participate in collegiate sports. She happily landed at Mercer County Community College where she became an NJCAA All-American. "Bill Drake and Puggy Malone were the coaches," she said. "And it was wonderful!" She remains one of 10 MCCC softball players to be named NJCAA All-America as she led the Vikings (34- 6) into the national tournament.

She met her future husband at Mercer. Star baseball pitcher Len Navarro was also named an NJCAA All-American in 1987. Carol and Len have two children - Ashley and Casey - who have also enjoyed long and successful experiences in athletics.