Catching up with … Krista Swartzendruber
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. Krista Swartzendruber has a way of changing things for the better.The 1997 Glenwood High graduate left an impact on both the Demon and Colorado State University volleyball programs as powerful as a meteor, and the vibrations can still be felt today.When pounding the ball as an outside hitter for Glenwood, Swartzendruber helped the Demons reach their first state tournament in school history. After signing with CSU, she helped propel the Rams program into the national spotlight where it has stayed ever since.Now, the 28 year old is living in Golden and working as a sales and marketing consultant for E & J Gallo Winery. Swartzendruber is also set to hit the aisle and be married on July 20. Still working hard to be successful, Swartzendruber handles life as she always has above the net and at full speed.I am kinda going 90 miles an hour all the time, Swartzendruber said.
When Swartzendruber tried out for the Glenwood Springs volleyball team her freshman year in 1993, she was selected for the junior varsity squad. She wasnt tall for a volleyball player an only stands at 5-10 today. She couldnt jump the highest, but her determination was more powerful than physical limitations. She decided that after her freshman year, volleyball was the sport she loved. She was more dedicated than any other player Ive had, said former GSHS volleyball coach Sandy DeCrow, who coached Swartzendruber. There were a lot of dedicated athletes, but she was different because she didnt come up as a star. She was a good player, but she made herself into the best that she could be.Swartzendruber got better and better and Glenwood started winning more and more games, finally making it to the state tournament in Pueblo her senior season. Glenwood didnt make it out of the final eight, but the Demons established themselves as a force to be reckoned with.It was great, Swartzendruber said. We were the first ones in the record books so to speak.Swartzendruber, one of two seniors on the team, was given player of the year honors for her role with Glenwood.She may have been the teams star but Swartzendruber always kept the focus on the team.She wasnt selfish. Whatever it took to make the team better, thats what she was about, said DeCrow, who is a former Glenwood graduate and coached the Demons for 10 years. Shes a phenomenal player. Attitude-wise and being coachable, she was one of the best. It was her attitude that made her excel.Since 1996, the Glenwood spikers have gone on to appear in four more state tournaments and are known as one of the better 4A programs in Colorado. Swartzendrubers accomplishments helped get them there and also made her a player DeCrow will never forget.She was a rare individual willing to put the team ahead of herself, she said. What was cool about her was that she made the kids around her better. She was the first real premier player I coached.
When Swartzendruber packed her bags for Fort Collins, the CSU volleyball program was growing.A new coach was at the helm in Tom Hilbert, who still heads the program today. Tom taught me a lot about the game as far as strategies and finding ways to win, Swartzendruber said.Hilbert immediately recognized Swartzendrubers abilities to make the team better.The one word to describe her was maturity, Hilbert said. She was a leader from the first time she stepped into the program.Like DeCrow, Hilbert was surprised at the power that came from Swartzendrubers 5-10 frame.She played way beyond her physical talent, he said.As Swartzendruber and the Rams began to win more matches, the schools national reputation was on the rise. It hit a new level when CSU opened the 2000 season Swartzendrubers senior year playing in the State Farm Classic, which featured a showdown against UCLA the No. 1-ranked team in the country.Swartzendruber slammed down 21 kills in a clutch performance that helped CSU knock off the top dog.She played the best game of her career in arguably the most important game in the history of the program, Hilbert said.No one gave CSU a chance, but thats what made the Rams upset over the Bruins so special.We won the game on national TV and we wouldnt have won it without her, Hilbert said. That game changed CSUs appearance from an up-and-comer to a national power.The day still stands out as high point of Swartzendrubers career.That is one of my highlights and I think it is one of Toms, too, and that is great knowing that you could contribute that to your coach, your program, your teammates and the university, Swartzendruber said.During Swartzendrubers four-year career at CSU, the Rams went 113-22 and even set an NCAA record for most consecutive wins at home with 44 straight. This year, CSU won the Mountain West Conference Tournament and made its 12th consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance.Swartzendruber has nothing but good memories from her time at CSU.It was amazing. You talk to other girls that played at different universities and a lot of times they come out of it hating the sport or having had terrible experiences, she said. I am very fortunate that Tom did a great job of coaching me but also going above and beyond to make it a positive experience.
Swartzendrubers volleyball career is still going. Shes managed to rack up two titles in the prestigious Aspen MotherLode tournament after pairing up with former CSU teammate Angela Knopf in 2002 and 03.She continues to play doubles tournaments on the Front Range and fun matches.Volleyball was even responsible for netting her a fianc.Chris Wilper, a computer software developer, played tennis in college, but was turned onto volleyball in the years following.Busy making plans for the upcoming wedding, Swartzendruber has not played in tournaments as much as usual, but plans on getting back on the doubles scene when things slow down.On the job front, Swartzendruber travels throughout Colorado, Wyoming and Kansas in the ever-busy wine business.After the wedding, Swartzendruber is excited to kick back and relax on her honeymoon in Kauai, Hawaii.I am just looking forward to laying on the beach, she said.As for the future, Swartzendruber sees a beautiful life in Colorado.Colorado is just too good of a place to leave, she said. There are places I want to travel, but no where else I want to live.
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The Rifle and Glenwood Springs girls tangled on Tuesday night at Glenwood’s Chavez-Spencer Gymnasium in a 4A Western Slope League contest that carried major implications in the conference standings.