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Circle of Life

As painful as last year’s knee injury was, the most challenging part for Pryor’s Olivia Cummings was the mental aspect of not being able to play while the team thrived without her.

Article
John Tranchina
Photos
Sarah Eliza Roberts
Posted
September 28, 2019

It’s taken a lot of hard work and mental fortitude, but Olivia Cummings is back in the softball pitching circle for her senior year. She is pitching well and serving as an influential leader on a young, reloading Pryor High School fastpitch softball squad that came agonizingly close to a state championship last season without her.

Following a severe knee injury suffered early in the 2018 season, Cummings missed virtually the entire year, eventually battling back in time for track and field last spring.

It was difficult enduring a season watching from the sidelines as her teammates compiled a 32-6 record that included separate winning streaks of 17 and 11 games, and advanced to the Class 5A state final before falling 7-5 to Carl Albert.

“It was heartbreaking, but I think it made us want it even more this year,” Cummings says of the gut-wrenching defeat in the title game. “It gave me a new love for the game. It was tough [not to play], but I focused on cheering my teammates on and helping them improve, and try to give them as much advice as I could.”

After undergoing surgery for a torn ACL, Cummings worked hard on her rehabilitation and was happy to be able to participate in track, where she does the sprinting events, although she hadn’t yet regained her trademark speed. The knee still isn’t quite 100%, but she has been cleared to play and is back in the circle.

“It’s been good,” she says of the knee. “It still hurts me a little bit, but it’s way stronger than it was. Last spring, I had track, and I was back for that. It took me a while, and my speed’s not back yet, but it’s getting there. I’m still working on it.”

She could even see a bit of a silver lining from the whole situation, as it relates to her pitching.

While she played multiple positions as an underclassman for Pryor when she wasn’t the No. 1 starting pitcher, and she still lines up at second base for the Bombers on occasion, Cummings enjoys pitching the best. (Photo: Marc Rains)
While she played multiple positions as an underclassman for Pryor when she wasn’t the No. 1 starting pitcher, and she still lines up at second base for the Bombers on occasion, Cummings enjoys pitching the best. (Photo: Marc Rains)

“It honestly has helped me, because I had to get my knee stronger and it’s on my push-off leg, so it’s helping me push off harder,” she says. “It’s making my pitches a little easier to control and making me pitch faster.”

As painful as the injury was, the most challenging part for Cummings to deal with was the mental aspect of not being able to play, all while the team thrived without her. She adjusted her focus to determining how else she could still help the Tigers and became somewhat of an enthusiastic cheerleader.

“At first, it was really, really hard,” she says. “I cried a lot in the beginning when I first figured out I wasn’t going to be there to help my teammates, but I realized I could help them in other ways, and I could work on getting that back and trying to absorb as much as possible for this next year. So I feel like this year, I know everything a little bit more because I paid attention last year.”

Now as a senior, Cummings has continued to fulfill even more of a leadership role, and with several key contributors to last season’s success graduating, her presence is even more vital to Pryor’s fortunes. Through the first three weeks of the season, the Tigers owned a 9-7-1 record, including an unbeaten 4-0 mark in District 5A-3, although they did stumble through a difficult stretch in which they went 1-5-1.

“I feel that I need to be more of a team leader, and I’ve been trying,” Cummings says. “It’s been a little bit harder with this team. It’s different from last year. Over half the team is new, so it’s like we’re learning everything new from the beginning. We’ve been struggling a lot, but I’ve been trying to work on us, on every individual part. We’re working on the things we need to fix.”

Cummings has been playing softball since she was 6 years old, and has always loved it. She also plays on a club travel team based out of Tulsa called the Oklahoma Bombers-Sheldon.

“I love the competitiveness, and I love the feeling I get when I just step on the field,” she says. “It’s a different feeling for me, like nothing I get with any other sport or any other things I do.”

While she played multiple positions as an underclassman for Pryor when she wasn’t the No. 1 starting pitcher, and she still lines up at second base for the Bombers on occasion, Cummings enjoys pitching the best.

“I like to be doing stuff at all times on the field, and I feel more control in the game,” Cummings says of pitching. “When I’m at that position, I feel like I’m the leader, and I feel like I have to work harder to prove that I am the leader. I started pitching when I was 8 or 9 years old, and I’ve been there ever since.”  

In addition to softball, Cummings has also played many other sports. Growing up, she played basketball but stopped when her commitment to softball got in the way.

“I quit basketball after my freshman year, just because I played softball at the end of the summer, and they had a lot of basketball stuff during the summer,” Cummings says. “And they told me I wouldn’t get to play very much if I didn’t come to any of the summer stuff. I was like, ‘I want to play, but if I’m not going to get to, I should probably just quit.’”

Cummings has also run track since the seventh grade.

“I enjoy it a lot,” she says. “Last year, it was just to stay in shape a little bit, because I was slower [after the knee injury], but I’ve enjoyed it because I just love the competitiveness.”

And this year, for a change, she also decided to join the Pryor pom squad, which performs dance routines at halftime of the Tigers’ football games.

“I like music, and I just like to dance to music, so I thought it might be fun, for my senior year, to just try something new,” she says.

Outside of sports, Cummings is a regular teenager, enjoying spending time with her friends, as well as her 15-year-old sister, Claudia. “I like to swim and I hang out with my sister and my friends a lot,” she says.

And like many teenagers, she has yet to make up her mind about her plans. Cummings is still deciding if she is going to play softball in college next year and where she wants to enroll.

“I don’t know what I want to do,” Cummings says. “I know I want to go to college, but I don’t know where or what I want to do in college. I’ve been trying to figure that out. I think I do want to play in college.”

December 2019 Cover