BOZEMAN — It’s officially summer vacation for students in the area, but not many of them are spending their time honing their athletics or academics. When you have a national title on the line, though, you have to put in some work.
A national title run is what sets Lulia Paea apart from her peers. At 13 years old and fresh out of seventh grade, she has her intentions set beyond pool days in the sun, all for something bigger than herself.
“It’s an all-American softball team and it’s just different girls picked up out of different regions,” said Paea, who was one of only 360 girls in the country picked to compete in the
All-American Softball Team tournament in Oklahoma City.
The love of softball came quick for Paea after playing for a Bozeman recreation team. It was after she began travel ball that she realized the competitiveness of the sport, and that was something she craved.
“They’re just more competitive, we’re just more of team for travel ball and I like that,” she said.
Her travel team, the Montana Avalanche, is located in Missoula. The distance and dedication requires a trip west once a week. While she credits her success greatly to both team and her coach, Dan Ries, she also has a live-in leader at home to help her on the diamond: her dad.
“We have a day of batting, fielding, and then base running kind of like conditioning,” Lulia Paea said.
“There can be challenges — you know, father daughter head-butts, but we always work it out and come to a conclusion that we need to work together better for the team and organization we play for,” said Kalani Paea, Lulia’s father.
Their bond is clear — close and encouraging — but they both know a few years from now, the distance won’t just be a few steps away.
“I would like to go to a college with a good softball team, either Florida, Texas or California,” Lulia Paea said of her big dreams.
While the schools are some distance away, Kalani Paea is proud of his daughter.
“Moments like this when she gets rewarded for her hard work she puts in makes us, as parents, really proud,” he said.
But for now, they can soak up the time they have chasing titles together.