The four-hour drive was getting to be a bit much for Sammie Olexa and her family.
A softball standout living in Penticton, Olexa was playing in the South Okanagan but would often travel to Surrey to train at the West Coast Softball Academy under coach Kim Wright.
“We were driving down every weekend, and it was beginning to become too much,” said Olexa. “There was only one rep team in Penticton, and I ended up having to do school from home because we were doing so much driving.
“It was too much.”
So the family sold their home, and moved to Surrey to allow Sammie and sister Francis pursue their passion. Four years later, the move has paid off.
Olexa, 18, will play at Simon Fraser University (SFU) next season, accepting a scholarship offer last December. Having completed her first year of studies at SFU, for Olexa, playing for the school’s NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics) team accomplishes one of several goals she has set for herself.
“SFU was the target. I didn’t want to move away from home,” she said Sunday at Cloverdale Athletic Park, between games of a tournament she and her Surrey Storm 93 teammates were participating in. “It’s a highly competitive program. And I didn’t want to move away from my family, I’m close to them.”
Now in her second season with the Storm after one year with the White Rock Renegades, Olexa said the adjustment from rep ball in Penticton to the more competitive programs in Surrey was more difficult on the field than off it.
“It was a little hard (playing more competitive softball), but I set really high goals for myself. And that made it a little easier,” she said. “And I’d gone to West Coast, so I knew girls from there.”
Her family moved to the Lower Mainland while Olexa was in Grade 9, and the third baseman wasted little time winning a championship while playing for the Vancouver Wildcats in the Showcase (under-16) division at the 2008 Canada Cup.
She will be at the tournament again next month, competing in the Futures (under-19) division at the 2011 Scotiabank Canadian Open Fastpitch International Championship at Softball City and Cloverdale Athletic Park July 9-17. (For more information, see canadianopenfastpitch.com)
A scholarship secured, with plans to major in psychology next year, Olexa isn’t done pursing her goals in softball.
“I’m trying out for the junior national team this summer,” she said. “Hopefully one day, I’ll be on the women’s national team. I want to take this as far as I can.”