Rachel Besse, a 6-foot-1 senior at Soldotna High School, announced this week that she plans on attending Vanguard University in Costa Mesa, Calif., to play basketball.
Besse signed her national letter of intent Monday. In exchange for playing basketball, Vanguard will cover all of her expenses except for books.
Vanguard is affiliated with the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics. Coach Russ Davis is in his seventh season there and had a 136-57 record through six full seasons.
Between 1998 and 2000, Vanguard won at least 27 games and lost less than 10 each season, earning three consecutive Golden State Athletic Conference championships. Vanguard also competed in three consecutive NAIA National Tournaments during that time.
Last season, the Lions made their fourth trip to the NAIA National Tournament, but were eliminated in the first round. Vanguard ended the season at 17-12.
Besse said she was somewhat lukewarm on the prospect of attending school in California until she visited the campus recently.
"It's a really nice campus," Besse said. "It's also five minutes from the beach, which will be nice."
Another thing that led Besse to Vanguard was the recommendation of Molly Tuter-Koral, the daughter of Soldotna girls basketball coach Mark Tuter. Tuter-Koral, a 1993 graduate of Soldotna High School, is now the lead assistant coach at the University of California Irvine.
"Vanguard's coach is a good friend of my daughter," Mark Tuter said. "She said it's an excellent opportunity for Rachel.
"It's a good program, and she has a chance to step in right away and make a difference."
Davis saw Besse play when she traveled to tournaments in California, Washington state and Oregon this past summer with the Alaska Youth Basketball Association's Girls High School Select Team. Davis also got to watch Besse play in game tapes from her junior year.
What Davis saw was a player who was named all-Region III as a junior and also was named Soldotna's most valuable player. As a junior, Besse averaged 14 points, 11 rebounds, seven blocks and four assists per game. She also shot about 72 percent from the foul line.
Besse, who carries a 3.1 grade point average at Soldotna, said she is undecided on a major at Vanguard. However, Besse did say one of the things that appealed to her is Vanguard's 13-to-1 student-to-teacher ratio.
Edwards finishes 61st at NCAA nationals
Erika Edwards, a 2001 graduate of Skyview High School, finished 61st at the NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships Nov. 25 in Terre Haute, Ind.
Edwards, who ran 21 minutes, 8.3 seconds for 6,000 meters, was the third runner on her Northern Arizona team, which finished 10th.
Brigham Young won the women's team title while North Carolina's Shalane Flanagan won the individual title with a time of 19:36.0.
Knudsen helps Black Hills to third at NAIA nationals
Kristi Knudsen, a 2000 graduate of Kenai Central High School, helped Black Hills State University to a third-place finish in the women's race at the NAIA National Cross Country Meet Nov. 23 in Kenosha, Wis.
BHSU also finished second in the men's and women's combined team points at the event.
Knudsen finished 43rd in the 5-kilometer race with a time of 19:28. She was the third runner on her team.
The Next Level highlights Kenai Peninsula athletes who have gone on to participate in athletics after high school.
If you know of any such athlete, contact the Clarion sports department by phone at 283-7551, by fax at 283-3299 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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