by Eric Oslund
Summer is often at time for high school athletes to refine their skills for any given sport, as many players choose to join club teams. In the case of Kincaid Strain and Ashley Peterson – two Elk River softball players – they decided to join the Minnesota Xtreme 2000.
Strain was 14 years old when she joined the Xtreme. Her sister was a member of the organization before she joined, so she already had a good feel for the coaches and some of the players she would be working with. That wasn’t quite the case for Peterson, though.
She joined the Xtreme after Strain was already a member of the team, and knowing one of her high school teammates was already playing with that club certainly made the decision to join a whole lot easier.
“It’s well talked about in Elk River because it was kind of the next step for our association growing up with the younger softball team, so I heard a lot about it then,” Peterson said of the Xtreme. “When I found out that she, and a couple other of my teammates, were going there I decided to head out with them.”
This club team is made up from girls all around the Elk River area, so both Strain and Peterson were teamed up with players they often go up against during the high school season. Players from Anoka, Champlin Park and St. Michael joined these two Elks but they never let their school-ball rivalries effect their chemistry.
In fact, they use this time as teammates to strengthen their bonds, so even when they see one another in opposing dugouts in the spring, it’s more of a happy reunion than anything.
“It’s so weird,” Strain began. “And in high school seeing them in the other dugout, those are my friends, those are my team.
“It’s like during the game we want to beat them, but after the game we all come together and say hi, and hang out and take pictures together. We’re all best friends once it’s over. No matter who wins and who loses.”
All the girls on the team had grown close over the years, which made the 2017 season especially hard for Strain and Peterson. They will both be graduating once the upcoming school year is done, which means this was the final summer they were able to be apart of the Xtreme family.
But before their season officially came to an end, they made sure to create one final memory.
The Xtreme made their way down to Rochester from July 27-30 for the Northern National Girls Fastpitch Championship. It was the first time these two Elk River girls had played in this tournament, and they knew it wouldn’t be easy.
There were a total of 48 teams competing, coming from all across the Midwest, but the Xtreme were ready to leave their mark.
“It was really funny actually,” Peterson said of the tournament. “Believe it or not, we kind of always have been the team to come back at the end. We always go into the tournament laughing like, ‘Well, let’s just see how long we get into this one.’ We didn’t realize it as we were playing, how far we were actually getting. Then the coaches started talking about the end and we were like, ‘Oh, we’re there. We’re almost there this time.’”
The relaxed attitude that the team played with throughout the weekend kept them undefeated heading into the championship game where they would eventually take second to a team from Illinois. It wasn’t exactly the finish they were hoping for, but at the end of the day they know taking second in such a large tournament is nothing to hang their heads about.
It was just about as perfect an ending these Elk River girls could have for.
“It’s so emotional,” Strain said. “For my club team, knowing that’s the last time we were going to play together, we were all crying. We still all plan on hanging out because we’re all so close with each other.”
Now, these two soon-to-be-senior will have to wait until the spring where another set of good byes will be waiting for them, but this one may be even harder. Before that time comes, though, they are hoping for at least one more memorable playoff run, and possibly even a trip to state.