ROCKFORD (WREX) — Rock Valley College was well on its way to making a run to another national championship last year. Then COVID-19 came and shut down the sports world. But the Lady Golden Eagles made it through the tough times and are now competing for a 7th straight national championship.
Seven has long been a spiritual number throughout history. As the RVC softball team closes in on its own history with potential 7th straight national championship, the player who wears number 7 now feels the spirit of former number 7, Summer Amman.
"It means everything to me," Trinity Fry said of wearing the number. "I played with Summer in high school for a year. She was obviously someone I looked up to."
Summer Amman died by suicide in 2018, sending shockwaves through the softball program. Rock Valley turned its attention to mental health in recent years.
"Quarantining and having to stay at home was kind of like an enemy to our mental health," Fry said. "Being able to come out here and play softball and hang around people I love really helped me get through the quarantine and actually a lot of us."
Fry earned the honor of wearing the number 7 this year, a privilege given to the player who most embodies Summer's characteristics.
"Summer's legacy goes far beyond her ability as a player," RVC head softball coach and athletic director Darin Monroe said. "It was also her leadership. Summer was one of the toughest kids I ever coached. She shined in big-time moments. When she'd show up to practice she was there to get better."
Wearing the number is an honor Fry doesn't take lightly.
"For my teammates to think I embody the smallest amount of who she was as a player is just a great honor," she said. "I try to live up to that every practice, every game."
As RVC takes aim at a 7th national title, the Golden Eagles are rallying around Fry's leadership.
"She just carries a special presence about her that really helps our team," RVC catcher Kirstin Fudge said. "She embodies everything that I think number 7 means."
Fudge's battery-mate, Ashton Melaas, agrees.
"It really means a lot that she wears that number because of how great a leader she is and with Summer and how great of a player she was, it's very well-deserving for Trinity to wear it," Melaas said.
Through all the hits and fly balls chased down, Trinity feels the presence of her former high school teammate.
"You can feel when someone's looking after you," Fry said. "Throughout this program it's been that way and I know this one will be the same."
As RVC goes after title number 7, the Golden Eagles know number 7 is shining down, illuminating every big moment with a summertime glow.