Rifle’s Wallner resigns as girls basketball head coach
Change continues to abound within the Rifle High School girls basketball program. Following the departure of a strong senior class after a round of 16 loss to Air Academy this season, veteran head coach Kristy Wallner resigned from the program’s head coaching position on Monday.
Wallner, who held the head coaching job for five seasons, led the Bears to a record of 85-37 (51-15 4A Western Slope League), including back-to-back 4A WSL championships, a berth in the Great Eight in 2016-17, and a berth in the round of 16 this past season in the state playoffs.
“I feel like coaching years are like dog years,” Wallner told the Post Independent by phone, Thursday. “Five years as a head coach anywhere is a long, long time. With this group, we planned everything out when they were in eighth grade. All those playoff runs were planned out; we wrote them down. Once we accomplished all we had for goals, I felt like my job here was complete.”
Among them, Wallner said the team had a goal to have a team GPA of 3.6 or higher, which they achieved every year under her watch. On the court, Rifle wanted to have home-court dominance. That was accomplished too, as the Bears went 20-0 at home during Wallner’s last two seasons. On top of that, Rifle wanted to make deep playoff runs, and they accomplished that with two round of 16 appearances and a Great Eight appearance two seasons ago. In five years, Wallner helped improve a strong Rifle program into an elite one.
“The amount of work that it took to accomplish all that as a group was a lot,” Wallner said. “We all did it together, and we checked all those boxes. It was time for me. There’s nothing negative about the job; I’m leaving with a heart full of love. I’m thankful to those kids that took me on this journey, the community that embraced and supported me; it was fantastic.”
Overall, Rifle went to the 4A state playoffs all five seasons under Wallner’s guidance, while also sending three players to the collegiate level. Chante Church (Regis University), Sam Hinkle (McCook Community College) and current senior Elly Walters (Regis University) all earned college opportunities under Wallner’s watch.
Wallner will take some time off from coaching to look back and reflect and learn from her time at Rifle. For now, she’ll continue to put individual players in the area through workouts, helping mentor and prepare them for high-level basketball, considering Wallner played collegiately at Xavier University, before going on to play pro basketball in Germany.
After leading Rifle to a win nearly 70 percent of the time over five seasons, Wallner will undoubtedly be a hot commodity once she’s ready to step back into the fold as a head coach, wherever that might be.
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The Coal Ridge High boys suffered their first 3A Western Slope League loss of the year Thursday night on the road at Gunnison, falling to the defending league champion Cowboys 65-45.