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‘Freaky’ Rankin Inlet club downs Salliq to claim mixed-softball title

The Rankin Freaks defeated the Coral Harbour (Salliq) Invaders 20-7 to capture the Calm Air Cup mixed softball title in Rankin Inlet this past month.

Seamas Ayaruak, left, accepts the Best Outfielder award from Connor Faulkner at the 2020 Calm Air Cup mixed-softball championship in Rankin Inlet on Aug. 20.
Photos courtesy Kandace Graham

The Freaks defeated AC Traders in one semifinal to set-up the championship tilt, while the Invaders defeated the Blue Sox in their semifinal.

There were 10 teams in the tourney, with two teams from Coral Harbour, Baker Lake and Iqaluit joining the six Rankin squads. Players from Arviat, Baker and Iqaluit also joined a number of Rankin teams for the tourney.

The championship game saw the Freaks redeem themselves against the Invaders, after Salliq had defeated them 20-7 in round-robin action.

Freaks player Kandace Graham said the tone was set for the day when the Freaks squeaked past the New Era in a true nail biter of a quarter-final game early Sunday morning.

She said her squad pulled-out the win at their last at bat.

We were down by four runs in the bottom of the seventh inning and pulled off a walk-off win,” said Graham. “That had to be one of the best games of the tournament.

The quality of ball at this year’s tournament was through the roof; one of the best years we’ve had.

It was anyone’s Cup to take.”

Graham said Covid-19 did have an effect on the tournament. She said tourney organizers couldn’t fly-in umpires from outside of the territory for this year’s Cup event.

We had asked a number of individuals from the region if they would be interested in getting certified and then coming to Rankin Inlet to ump, but they all declined.

So we had two individuals from Rankin ump the tournament; one who recertified and one who got certified.

Covid also meant Churchill could not attend as there were no direct flights. That meant the players would have to be placed in quarantine on the way up and back.”

The 2020 Calm Air Cup mixed-softball champion Rankin Freaks are, back row, from left, Lee Kreelak, Donovan Ayaruak, Chad Taipana, Chad Graham, James Merritt, Airo King, Seamas Ayaruak and Norman Okalik, and, front row, from left, Shirley Nakoolak, Tracey Roach, Catherine Ayaruak, Kandace Graham and Olivia Tagalik in Rankin Inlet on Aug. 30.

The Rankin Freaks and Salliq Invaders now qualify for the 2021 national championship. They will be joined by the Rankin New Era and Rankin Royals, who qualified for the 2020 nationals which were cancelled due to the pandemic.

Graham said the 2020 Cup championship was a special one for her and her husband, Chad. She said the two of them have played on teams together for about 17 years now.

We’ve played together since juniors and our first Calm Air Cup was 10 years ago. “We were married in 2017, so this was our first Calm Air Cup championship as husband and wife. That felt good.”

Graham has now turned her focus to organizing a biggest loser challenge in Rankin. She said the entrance fee is $100 per participant for the winner-take-all challenge, which will run for 12 weeks.

I entered a similar challenge in 2018 and it helped keep me motivated to get healthy, so I wanted to challenge myself again.

I asked a few friends if they were interested, and then I asked my Facebook friends about it, and there was enough interest and support for me to open it up to our community.

The deadline for anyone to enter is Sept. 18.”