Foldagers choose a college

Many area football players also plan for next level

Posted: Sunday, March 02, 2008

The answer was obvious.

"International business," Seward cross country and track star Rubye Foldager said over the phone when asked what she'll major in at college.

Just five minutes earlier, her equally talented and affable sister, Denali, responded the exact same way.

It's no surprise, either, considering they feed off each other when traversing the trails or rounding corners on the track.

"She's a little snake. She stole it from me," Rubye said with a laugh. "She's like, 'That sounds exciting.' I'm like, 'Yeah, I guess.'

"She's like, 'I want to do it, too.' I'm like, 'I'm never going to get away from you.'

Not for the next four years she won't.

Following a week-long college recruiting road trip in December spanning the West Coast from Oregon to San Diego, the dynamic duo officially signed letters of intent Tuesday to run cross country and spring and winter track at California State University Stanislaus, a NCAA Division II school in the northern part of the state.

The biggest draw? The weather, of course.

"I fell in love with the sun because every time we called back home it was snowing and miserable," Denali said. "The farther I got down south, I just loved it more."

"I'm pretty sure me and Denali were born for the sun," Rubye added. "So, it won't be that hard."

The competition might be, though.

Alternating Class 1-2-3A state cross country titles, Rubye winning as a freshman and a junior and Denali taking the crown her sophomore season as well as a state track and field title in the 300-meter hurdles as a junior, the talented tandem also helped guide the Seahawks cross country squad to their second consecutive state team title this past season. They may not experience that level of success again anytime soon.

"It will be tougher," Rubye said. "I'm trying to think of it as high school 'It's OK. It's just another race,' so I won't freak myself out too bad.

"We'll see," she added. "I'm pretty sure there'll be a lot more runners who are way in front of me."

Cal State Stanislaus men's and women's cross country coach Diljeet Taylor thinks otherwise.

"After seeing their high school accomplishments with the difficulty with training in Alaska ... I was immediately sold that they could make a huge impact on the team," Taylor said. "I really believe that they're going to do well here. I'm not saying that just because I'm the coach here. I went to school here. ... I know that they're going to do well. I'm confident in that."

Splitting up wasn't a pressing issue.

Since her freshman year at Seward, Denali planned on enrolling at Montana State University, a D-I college in Bozeman.

"Pretty much the only college I ever looked at," said Denali, who also placed second, third and fifth in her cross country career. "Then I got accepted."

Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on how it's viewed, Montana State scheduled a visit while the Foldagers were already set to cruise across California.

"The trip was basically for me because I didn't know yet," said Rubye, a third- and-fifth-place finisher when she didn't win. "(Denali) just kind of fell in love with it, too."

It's a good thing she did.

"At first we didn't think it mattered, but when we really thought about it, it would have been better to go together because we run better together," Denali said. "We would end up going to the same school anyway after the first year because we'd probably miss each other."

Taylor said she heavily recruited the sisters, encouraging them to enroll together in hopes of easing the transition from Alaska.

"After meeting them and spending a couple of hours with them, I knew the best decision for them was to go to the same university," she said. "I think after they really thought about, I think they both agreed."

And soon enough they'll become the first members of their family to further their education.

"My brother (Trent) did the whole college thing for a week. We're going to try to do it for a year," Rubye joked. "Try to beat him out."

Now, they can't seem to get away from each other on and off the courses.

"We might as well travel the world together," Rubye said with a hint of laughter in reference to international business. "She always plans on tagging along with me anyway. So, might as well."

Area football players commit to colleges

Many local football players also have committed to furthering their education as well as their pigskin prowess this coming fall.

Soldotna's Matthew Strieby and Josh Denna and Kenai's Travis Pierce have all made commitments to Valley City State College, an NAIA school in North Dakota, while SoHi's Ryan Shelton will attend Chadron State College in Nebraska and the Stars' Bryce Gardner and Timo Gleason are headed to Minnesota's Bemidji State University.

Soldotna coach Galen Brantley Jr. said each individual fits his school perfectly. And he would know, considering he, SoHi assistant coach Jeff Baker and former Stars coach Sarge Truesdell all played together at Valley City State, graduating in 1998.

Brantley said he did everything short of selling his alma mater, mailing bios and videos of each of his seniors to roughly 12 universities, while always leaving his door open for questions.

"I've always had the opinion as a coach that I didn't want to push a kid into going to a particular school," he said. "I felt if they went down and had a bad experience, I didn't want to carry the weight of that.

"I feel good that they're going there because I feel that they'll be taken care of," Brantley added. "I hate to see kids go out and have a bad experience and come home. We expect them to go down, have a successful athletic experience and come home with an education."

Coached by Dennis McCulloch, who was Valley City's defensive coordinator for the Stars coaching trio's first three years before assuming the head coaching duties for their senior campaign, Valley City offers a multitude of opportunities for the talented incoming freshmen.

"I think that all three young men that are headed down, Josh, Travis and Matthew, will all be a great fit down there," Brantley said. "I think it says that they love the sport and that they want to continue to play it at the next level.

"I think that they're going to a nice small college where they'll be taken care of."

A defensive lineman and guard who recorded 51 tackles and five sacks on Soldotna's second-consecutive, small-schools state championship squad this past season, Strieby received a V-500 scholarship for the 2008-09 academic year and will have to adjust to life as a middle linebacker for the Vikings. The V-500 scholarship is given by VCSU on the basis of grade-point average, ACT or SAT scores and high school class rank.

"Athletically, I think he has all the tools that he needs to play the position," Brantley explained. "We come from a pretty small level of football and kids play out of position. For us in the schemes that we run, he ended up playing guard and defensive end.

"The scheme they run playing middle linebacker in a 4-3 ... I think it's something he can do," he added. "I know he has the skills to do it."

Denna, an offensive and defensive lineman for the Stars who recorded three sacks last season, received "a good chunk of money," to play for Valley City State, Brantley said.

Shelton, who had four sacks and recovered one fumble as a senior last season, received an offer for full tuition, according to Brantley, and will be playing offensive lineman for the Division II Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year, Bill O'Boyle. The Eagles also are fresh off their second straight 12-1 season.

"He's a fantastic coach and Ryan's had the opportunity to be coached by him the last several years at the All-Northwest Camp (at Colony High School)," Brantley said, adding coach McCulloch also attended the camp. "It's a great, great avenue for football players in Alaska to get recruited and have an opportunity to play beyond high school."

Gardner, a running back for the Stars who found the end zone 22 times on offense and special teams last year while also rushing for 1,157 yards, and Gleason, who caught three touchdowns and added 51 tackles as a linebacker, will be playing at the D-II university for coach Jeff Tesch, who also made a recruiting trip to Alaska.

Brantley said Gleason will continue roaming the field as a linebacker while Gardner will play on the offensive side of the ball, possibly returning kicks or catching passes.

"I think they both have a great chance of getting in there," he said. "It's tough starting over again. You go from being top dogs, winning a couple of state titles, to being freshmen on a team and being on the bottom of a roster trying to make a name for themselves.

"Those two have the perfect mentality and they'll be just fine."

Experiencing a perfect 10-0 season in 2007 which culminated in SoHi's second crown ever certainly helped these players' causes. Brantley said they're good enough on their own to get noticed, though.

"Each one of those young men has a good work ethic, put time in, in the weight room, invested time in themselves and this is where it starts to pay off," he explained. "The whole team doesn't get recruited. Colleges come up here and they're looking for the very best players that they can find."

Miles plays running back at Bemidji

Already playing at Bemidji, former Kenai Central Kardinal Brandon Miles recently finished his freshman season as a member of the Beavers.

A running back majoring in business administration, Miles helped the Beavers to a 7-4 overall record and a 6-3 mark in Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference action. Bemidji's 10th consecutive winning season was highlighted by its defense, which led the NSIC in scoring and run defense, the latter of which ranked fifth nationally, allowing just 72 yards per game.

Shinn plays at Wenatchee Valley

Another former Kardinal, Dean Shinn, is a freshman on the current edition of the Wenatchee Valley College (Wash.) men's basketball team.

In 16 games this season, Shinn averaged 8.75 points a game, twice netting 19 points while recording 17, 15 and 13 in three other contests.

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