A hometown Ponoka teen will be taking her talents south of the border this coming fall.
Camryn Willier recently signed her letter of intent to become a member to Angelina College Roadrunners softball squad at the junior college in Lufkin, Texas.
Before that, Willier will graduate high school at Lambrick Park Secondary in Victoria then finish off her minor softball career as a member of the Under-19 Victoria Devils.
The journey to get here has been rather short, as Willier only started in softball when she was 11.
“I started out in Ponoka when I was also playing other sports. It wasn’t until I was 14 when I decided to tryout for an ‘A’ team in Red Deer and try out competitive level softball,” she said.
“I was excited to see this different level after seeing my older sister Sarah play it.”
Playing with Red Deer would later lead to another competitive level on a team based in Edmonton — the River City Hornets — where she would play for two seasons.
“I had been with a few different organizations growing up, as was I wanted to find a group that I could grow and continue playing with that shared my same goal of playing college softball,” Willier explained.
“I found a great group, River City, and some of my best friends to this day, but I was still searching for a coach that would bring me to that collegiate level.”
She couldn’t find it near home, but found what she was looking for in a place her sister had played.
“Attending Lambrick has been a great factor in advancing my skills and preparing me both mentally and physically for college. They have produced more college softball and baseball players than anyone else in the country,” Willier said.
“My older sister attended the program for Grade 11 and 12 and had such a great experience, so I knew it was something I wanted to be a part of as well.”
She added there are a multitude of resources — batting cages, weight room, diamonds — available along with lots of coaching to help with her journey.
“Living on my own and maturing faster has been a big step in my life, but has made me mentally a lot stronger and I’m excited to see how this will play into my season,” she said.
“Mostly though, my coach Rocky Vitale has had great experience in bringing girls to that next level, which is exactly what I needed. It’s a great feeling to have all the tools to be successful at my reach. My only limitation is how hard I’m willing to work.”
Willier chose the Roadrunners, who play in Division I of the National Junior Collegiate Athletic Association (NJCAA), for a couple of reasons.
“For the underlying fact that Texas softball is its own hybrid of the game and it has always been my dream to play in Texas, not to mention the beautiful weather,” she said, adding her visit last October cemented that decision.
“I knew, as I was hitting with a group of the girls who would be my future teammates, that this was something I wanted to be a part of.”
Being a catcher is kind of a unique position, one that wasn’t her first choice.
“Originally, I was a pitcher, but because everyone was afraid of the ball at one point on our U14 Ponoka team, my dad put me in and it was an instant click,” said Willier.
She would go on to attend camps taught by professional players from around the globe, learning to base her game off them, though specifically Canadian Natalie Wideman.
“My favourite thing is my ability to control how each play happens. Pitch calling is an important concept to learn and there’s a million different ways to call a game,” she said.
“But from there, finding weaknesses in batters is the key to calling a successful game. And the fact my position holds that much importance in my sport, drives me to make the effort on and off the field to be better every day.
“Lastly, I’m proud of all I’ve accomplished already and I can’t wait for what this upcoming season and this fall has to offer me.”