Versatile Walker signs to play two sports for Rio Grande

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 3, 2007

As Meatloaf once sang in a hit song, “Two out of three ain’t bad.”

For the coaches at the University of Rio Grande, Rachel Walker was able to fill the needs in two of three of their athletic programs.

Walker signed a letter-of-intent to play volleyball for coach Patsy Fields and run track for coach Bob Willey. Unfortunately for basketball coach David Smalley, basketball was the odd-man out.

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At least for now.

Walker, who set a single-season record with 28 blocked shots, said basketball would be too much of a strain on her time.

“Playing three sports would bring a lot of pressure and problems trying to balance your time. Playing three sports is something I might think about later, but college is more about academics and preparing for the rest of your life,” said Walker.

Walker was an all-district volleyball selection, and Rio Grande coach Patsy Fields liked what she saw.

“Rachel is very athletic. How much she plays depends on how fast she learns. She lacks experience, but she has all the other things that will help her,” said Fields.

A four-year letter winner in track, she was a member of the 4×200 meter relay team that advance to the state meet her sophomore season and the 4×100 relay team that qualified Saturday for this year’s state meet.

Known more for her discus event that has seen her throw as far as 115 feet and reach the regional meet last season, she has shown versatility by competing in the shot put, 100- and 200-meter dashes, long jump, and high jump as well as the 4×200 relay.

“We expect Rachel to step right in and help us. She is very versatile and she has got great leg speed and she can throw the discus,” said Rio Grande coach Bob Willey.

“We don’t want to overuse her. We’ll find her strength. We’re very excited about getting her.”

Walker said she will do whatever her coaches ask of her.

“I’m a team player. I just like to compete and win. It doesn’t matter to me what they want me to do,” Walker said.

An excellent student, Walker has a 3.9 GPA and is an honor graduate. A large part of her scholarship money was based on academics.

Walker was the first female at Ironton to win the Jack Wolfe Memorial Scholarship Award in its 34-year history. The award is based on points for academic and athletic achievement.

She has four varsity letters in track, three in volleyball and one in basketball.

Walker picked Rio Grande after considering Ursuline College in Cleveland, Marshall, Ohio University, Kentucky Christian University, Wilmington, and Memphis.

“It’s away from home, but it’s still close. Ursuline was one school I really liked a lot and I was going to play volleyball and track, but it was five hours away,” Walker said.

Playing at the college level offers a new challenge for Walker and she is not making any predetermined expectations.

“It’s intimidating because the athletes there know how to play and have club ball experience,” Walker said. “But it’s exciting because you get to go to another level and you get to step up your game against better competition.”

Walker, who said she prefers to put team goals first, said her accomplishments were the results of her teammates’ help and the work of her high school coaches: Tim Thomas (track), Beth Campbell (volleyball), and Doug Graham, Jeff Linn and Amy Hughes in basketball.

She also gave an extra thanks to shot put and discus guru Rusty Smith of South Point.

“I appreciated everything my coaches have done to help me in high school, and coach Fields and coach Willey for a great opportunity,” Walker said.

Rachel is the daughter of Treva and Jim Walker of Ironton.