Softball: Valley team competes at Jim Thorpe Games
More than 3,000 Native American athletes descended on Oklahoma City last month for the Jim Thorpe Native American Games.
Among them was a 12-member contingent from Northern Nevada which spent the last several months practicing in Dresslerville.
The Cal Neva Red Storm softball team was put together earlier this year with players from the Washoe, Paiute, Shoshone and Mandan/Hidasta Tribes.
The team would meet on Sundays at the softball field behind the Dresslerville Gym.
“We were kind of just a throw-together team,” said Teena Marie Simpson, 14, who plays catcher and pitcher for the Red Storm. “We wanted to be able to go to this event. It was weird at first, getting to know everyone. We had girls from everywhere: Fallon, Elko, Reno, Carson City. It took some time to get used to each other, but we figured it out.”
Figure it out they did.
Through seven games at the Jim Thorpe Games, Red Storm advanced to the title game of the tournament and finished second place overall. They fell in the championship to a squad that was the Oklahoma State Tournament runner-up that included all schools up to the 5A level.
“They did awesome and enjoyed the trip,” coach Loren Simpson said.
Part of the reward for the tournament was getting to play the championship game at the ASA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium, a 7,300-seat venue that annually hosts the Women’s College World Series, as well as many Team USA international games. It is widely regarded as the finest softball facility in the nation.
“It was exciting getting to play on the field out there,” said 16-year-old Red Storm shortstop/secondbaseman Julia Gomez. “I love the game so much and just tried to have fun getting to play there.”
“It’s just this huge stadium,” she said. “It took a while to remember we still had a game to play. Just being there was really cool.”
The games themselves drew athletes from across the country and Canada. They competed in a variety of sports, including baseball, softball, basketball, tennis, stickball, golf, track & field, cross country, wrestling, martial arts and beach volleyball.
According to the event’s Web site, it was geared toward highlighting Native American athletes who revolutionized today’s popular sports, like Jim Thorpe, as well as the rising star athletes who are making positive changes around the country.
Thorpe is considered by many to be the greatest athlete who ever lived.
He was a first-team Walter Camp All-American in football in 1911 and 1912. He won gold medals in the decathlon and pentathlon in the 1912 Olympics and in 1920, after a brilliant professsional football career, he was elected the first president of what would become the National Football League.
He was also an accomplished baseball player, playing for the New York Giants from 1912-17, and later for the Cincinnati Reds and Boston Braves. He carried a career batting average of .252 over the course of 289 games.
Opening Ceremonies for the Games were held at the Remington Park race track, with the competing athletes participating in a parade around the track.
Red Storm team members got to meet and take a picture with ESPN TV personality Skip Bayless.
The team included Courtney Dunn of Nixon, Teona Nevers of Fallon, Alyssa Stevens of Elko, Tyler Sumpter of Sutcliffe, Shasta Henry of Reno, Kaitlyn Jimmy of Stewart, Teena Marie Simpson of Gardnerville, Sarah Medicine Crow of Woodfords, Julia Gomez of Woodfords, Korin Jones of Woodfords, Jordan Garcia of Spring Creek and Hailey Wright of Elko.
The Red Storm will compete at the North American Indigenous Games in Canada next year.