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Hinkey showing her drive

Jim Noelker/Post Independent File Photo From left, Leah Hinkey and Amber Sutherland block a ball against Grand Junction Central Saturday afternoon going on to win three out of five.
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Leah Hinkey has gotten accustomed to living out of a travel bag.Since she became a member of the Colorado Juniors, an elite-level club volleyball team based in Colorado Springs, the odometer on the family’s automobile has sped into hyperdrive.For the past eight months, Hinkey, a starter on Glenwood Springs High School’s volleyball squad, has been making the round trip across the Continental Divide to her club team’s practices in Monument and for tournaments throughout the United States.In eight months, Hinkey has played in big arenas in Salt Lake City, Baltimore and Indianapolis. This weekend, the junior-to-be concludes her first season as a member of the Colorado Juniors with a weekend-long trip to Houston for the USA Junior Olympic Volleyball Championship Tournament.

Hinkey is the only member of the 11-person team – which consists of 16 year-old players – from the Western Slope. The balance of the squad lives on the Front Range.The amount of travel Hinkey does, “surprised my teammates, because its a four-hour drive to get to practice,” she said. On weekends away from home, Hinkey stays at teammates’ homes or with her parents, Bob and Mary Hinkey, at area hotels.But, the travel time and extra expenses the Hinkey family have absorbed have given Leah increased exposure to Division I college volleyball coaches.”Since I’m only 16, colleges can give you a questionnaire – That’s it,” Hinkey explained. “If you what more information, the requests go through your club coach.”Some of the schools Hinkey’s asked for more information include Georgia Tech, UC Santa Barbara, UCLA, Long Beach State and Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif.

And, with two years left in her high school volleyball career, Hinkey has the luxury of time before making a decision where to play in college.After trying out, then making the Colorado club team, Hinkey’s risen another rung up the elite youth volleyball ladder.In front a nationwide panel of college and club coaches before a tournament in Austin, Texas, Hinkey earned a spot on the 30-member U.S. Girls 2004 Youth National A3-level team.More than 800 players tried out for a spot on three national-level teams of high school sophomores and juniors.”It was kind of intense, because there’s like hundreds of coaches there,” Hinkey said of the national team tryout. “They hand out shirts, and I had the biggest number on it. Then you notice all these coaches are evaluating you, so it makes you try harder.”



After four hours of scrutiny by the panel, Hinkey was informed she made the team.And she has enjoyed the opportunity. “It’s really cool playing with them,” she said. “It’s pretty easy because everyone’s at the same level.”But Hinkey admits the long car trips, airplane rides and living out of a suitcase can be overwhelming.”Sometimes I get sick of it,” she said of the amount of travel. “But, I really like it because I get to play volleyball.””Sometimes I get sick of it,” she said of the amount of travel. “But, I really like it because I get to play volleyball.”


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