By Craig Harper
For the Courier
Columbine’s Katie Powell admitted she didn’t know until two summers ago that Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, Ariz., even had a women’s volleyball team. But after doing her homework, the fit seemed too good to be true.
“I was at a (volleyball) camp at the University of Arizona and talking to one of the coaches about what I wanted to do in college, either engineering or meteorology,’’ said Powell, who carries a 4.6 grade-point average. “Someone had seen the Embry-Riddle coach at a festival the week before, so he gave me her card.’’
Just over a year later, Powell officially joined the Lady Eagles when she and four other Rebel athletes signed national letters of intent at a Nov. 13 ceremony at the school. Baseball players Austin Anderson (UNLV) and Blake Weiman (Kansas), lacrosse player Nichole Beaton (Colorado Mesa) and golfer Jaylee Tait (Montana State) also finalized their college choices.
Anderson, Weiman, Beaton and Tait all have senior seasons to complete at CHS in the spring.
Weiman, a left-hander coming off a back problem that sidelined him for the second half of the 2013 season (3-0, 3.09 ERA), should be the ace of coach Chuck Gillman’s pitching staff, and Anderson, who hit .339 while playing center field last spring, likely will replace Michael Burns, now a freshman at Wichita State, at shortstop.
Weiman said he also considered Arizona, Oregon State and New Mexico, but preferred KU all along, in part because of coach Ritch Price, who led the Jayhawks to the Big 12 championship series last spring.
Anderson also looked at Utah Valley and Creighton, but said of UNLV, “All the coaches were very interested in me, every one. They all contacted me, and they all wanted me to come and play there. And they had a really good team last year (37-20, 18-12 Mountain West).’’
Beaton is Columbine’s top returning scorer for 2014, with 24 goals and 27 assists last spring. She chose Colorado Mesa, a Division II school in Grand Junction, over Fort Lewis in Durango. “I visited Fort Lewis, but I knew right when I got on the Mesa campus it was perfect for me,’’ she said.
Tait, a regional champion last spring, had an easy time picking Montana State in Bozeman. “I really like the school and the small-town feeling, and I have relatives there,’’ she said. “I can also snowboard there, that was a plus. And I really, really like the coach and the team.’’