Rylee Frank can add a national gold medal to her collection.
Frank, who plays for the Red Deer Rage softball team, recently returned from the Canadian National Softball Championships where her team took gold in the Plate Division (2nd Division) and placed ninth overall.
Frank said it is an incredible feeling.
“It was pretty awesome, to say you got ninth in Canada is pretty cool,” said Frank.
At the start of the tournament, she said she and her teammates were a bit nervous, not knowing what to expect.
“The first game, we were all nervous,” said Frank. “You don’t know how all the other teams are going to play, if they are going to be really good and crush you or if it’s going to be a close game. So it was kind of suspenseful in that way, because you are so tense.”
Frank said keeping her mind on her game helped her overcome nerves and stay focused throughout the tournament.
“For me, it was just ball,” said Frank. “I was going up to play ball. I’ve never really been a nervous player.”
Despite nerves, the Rage was able to win the first game. Rage won one other game and lost two in the round robin to be placed in the Plate Division.
Then after another two round robin games, Rage made it to the gold medal game and was able to win to claim the Plate Division Championship.
Frank said she is more than pleased with how she and her team performed but added that, during the tournament, she cared less about how the team finished and was more concerned with how they played.
“I wasn’t so much worried about wanting to go all the way to the top,” said Frank. “I was more worried about being recognized as that team that never gave up.”
Frank started playing ball when she was five years old. Now 15, she just finished second team with the Red Deer Rage A team.
She said she first tried out for them last season at the encouragement of a friend.
Trying out for a higher competitive tier was a natural step for Frank. She said she was a strong player when she played in Lacombe and thought she would see how far it could take her.
“I’ve always been really competitive sport-wise,” said Frank.
In the Prairie Girls League Softball (GPLS), Rage played seven other U16 teams in three different tournaments as well as a league final.
Frank said the Red Deer Rage improved with each performance and they weren’t the only ones.
“All the games got closer, all the teams were getting better.”
Frank said both leagues were very competitive and added that playing in a ladies league was a great advantage as it allowed Frank and her team to compete against some older, more experienced players.
Frank said the provincial championship, the qualifier for nationals which took place mid-July, was a good experience for the team. She said that her team had grown strong over the course of the season and that strength allowed them to power through the tournament, finishing undefeated, even though they were down at times during the games.
“We had a really determined team and we worked really well together, we never gave up,” said Frank.
After getting gold at the provincial tournament, Frank was very excited about the idea of going to nationals.
Frank, who plays ringette during the winter, had the opportunity earlier in the year to go to ringette nationals as well and said she was interested to see how the experience would differ between the two sports.
Frank’s team was also excited. She said that some had already made plans for the trip to Ontario and added that, even without going to nationals, being crowned provincial champions was a notable achievement.
“We were excited to say we got first in Alberta.”