Softballers aim for nationals

Jun 27, 2002, vol. 24, no. 5
vol. 24, no. 5
By Marianne Meadahl

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Kristy Odamura (left) of Richmond tosses the ball to batting teammates during women's national softball training camp held at SFU in June.

Packing well-worn gloves and steely determination, 40 of Canada's best women's softball players have been converging on a newly renovated field at SFU with one goal in mind - to be among the fewer than half who will make the cut for the national team.

Those players will compete at the 2002 world championships in Saskatoon later this summer. The four top teams will automatically qualify for the 2004 summer Olympics in Athens.

Since the scrimmaging began in mid-June, the roster has been reduced to 31. Of the original 40 players, seven are current SFU athletes and three are alumni.

The training camp, which ends June 30, has drawn a small and regular crowd of spectators to the SFU field, which has recently been brought up to standard.

The new facility, complete with dug-outs, allows softball players to train on campus instead of at parks off the hill. “There's some incredible talent here,” says Mike Renney, Olympic team coach. He has also been coach of the SFU women's softball team since 1995.

Missing from the line-up is Hayley Wickenheiser, a double Olympian who traded her glove for a stick, and the chance to spend the summer playing pro-hockey in Europe. Wickenheiser helped lead Canada to a gold medal at the Salt Lake City Olympics. The 23-year-old kinesiology student also shines on the field, and competed for Canada in women's softball at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney with teammates Lesley Attwell and Vicky Lablanc. Former SFU Clan member Candace Murray was on the national team at the Olympics in 1996.

The Clan had one of its most successful seasons ever (32-5), finishing with the fewest losses in program history. In the past five years SFU has finished no lower than third in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletes.

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