Softball sluggers help secure championship win

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Oleksandra G. Manko
  • Nellis AFB Public Affairs
Two Nellis Airmen were selected as part of the Air Force team to represent the service in the 2007 All-Armed Forces Women's Softball Championship held at Hill AFB Sept. 18 to 20.

Staff Sgt. Sarah Ryan, an information manager with the 99th Air Base Wing, and Senior Airman Candace Dugo, a munitions controller with the 57th Equipment Maintenance Squadron, teamed up with 13 other Airmen and proceeded to win the tournament.

Additionally, both athletes made the Armed Forces Team, contributing to the team's victory at the Amateur Softball Association Nationals Tournament in Oklahoma City later that month.

To qualify for the tryouts, practices and championships play, each competitor had to take a considerable amount of time off work. Fortunately, the leadership was very supportive of their ambitions and each Airman received a month-long permissive TDY without question.

Softball tryouts lasted nine days, after which 15 women were selected for the team. Following tryouts, six more days of intense training followed.

However, achievements like making any Air Force sports team takes more than a few days of practice. Sergeant Ryan, an Oklahoma City native, and Airman Dugo, a native of Escalon, Calif., explained they were inspired by their parents' example. Both athletes have been playing softball since their childhood.

Here, in absence of an official Nellis team, each plays downtown with local co-ed teams and participate in tournaments to keep their skills sharp.

"The biggest challenge for me was being physically fit to endure three practices per day, two hours each, and staying at 100 percent to make the team," said Sergeant Ryan. "Lots of muscle aches, lots of ice and heat. The team got together very well. By the time of the tournament, teamwork was there, the glue had settled and we had the mindset to keep going and win that gold medal."

The Air Force team, which went undefeated the first day, faltered on day two taking two defeats from the Army and Navy teams.

"After not losing the first day, with lots of rookies on the team, we got complacent thinking that we had it," explained Airman Dugo. "On the third day we realized - anyone can win it. We pulled together as a team and blew everyone out of the water," said the team's third-year leftfielder.

"It was awesome," said Sergeant Ryan, who scored a homerun on day three in the decisive match against the Army, which took the gold in the 2006 championship. "The ball went 300 plus feet, and the Army was the team we wanted to beat the most," the third baseman said.

"Getting on the Air Force team was a goal of mine when I first came in," said Sergeant Ryan, who tried out for the first time in more than eight years of service. The program is not very publicized, and many people don't know how to go about it, she explained. "If you can do it, - go. It's an amazing once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see other players of your caliber with the same intensity and heart you have to play the sport," concluded Sergeant Ryan.

"I am very proud to have such an exceptional individual on my staff," said Col. Michael Bartley, 99th Air Base Wing commander. "Sergeant Ryan works hard to accomplish the mission here, and she plays hard, upholding the image of the Air Force while following her personal goals. This is the kind of ambition I highly encourage in all my Airmen."

Those wishing to tryout for any Air Force sports team need to fill out Air Force Form 303, found on www.e-publishing.af.mil, have it signed by their supervisor and commander, and submit it to the base athletics director, Kevin Hodsdon, at the base gym.