Rifle’s Walters wins PI’s Female Athlete of the Year award
Eight months ago, on the night standout Rifle High School female athlete Elly Walters, the daughter of Roger and Christy Walters, signed her national letter of intent to play basketball at Regis University, 23-year athletic director Troy Phillips said this about Walters: “If we had a model that we wanted every athlete at Rifle to emulate, she’d be it.”
Since that day, and throughout her four years at Rifle High School, Walters served as a shining example of what a true student-athlete is at the high school level. Through her hard work in the classroom and on the playing surface, and for her achievements as a basketball player and golfer in her senior season, Walters earned the Post Independent’s 2017-18 Female Athlete of the Year award.
“It’s a really great honor,” Walters said after hearing the news that she had won the award. “There’s been quite a few great athletes throughout the last couple of years, so just to be included into that group with this award is really something special. Hearing Mr. Phillips say that about me, that means a great deal to me. He’s a great person, so to have that praise from him is very humbling. Hopefully I’ve lived up to that praise.”
As an athlete for the Bears, Walters helped Rifle reach the round of 16 in the 4A state playoffs in girls basketball, while also helping the Rifle girls golf team win the 3A Region 4 golf regional championship, before then placing tied for fourth at the 4A state championship in Pueblo.
While on the basketball court, Walters scored 1,448 points for her career, 556 rebounds, 423 assists, and 262 steals over four seasons with the Bears. That averages out to 14.6 points per game, 5.6 rebounds, 4.3 assists, and 2.6 steals in 99 career games. In those 99 career games, Walters helped the Bears go 74-25, while winning two straight league championships, and making three round of 16 appearances in a row, including a group of eight appearance in 2016-17, where the Bears upset Air Academy on the road.
Despite all the success, and all the individual honors Walters has racked up over the years, the quiet, mild-mannered Rifle star always deflects the praise back to her teammates and coaches.
“Those girls that I played with, they are what made everything so fun these last four years,” Walters said. “The team means everything to me; my teammates have been some of my greatest supporters over the years, and for me to be able to return that support and have as much fun as we did while succeeding, that made everything worth it.”
Growing up in a household with a highly successful basketball coach for a father like Walters did, one would think the game came naturally to her. But that wasn’t the case. One of Walters’ favorite stories to tell is of her being “one of the worst” players at her dad’s basketball camp, when Roger was the head coach at Colorado Mesa University.
With Elly struggling at the camp, seeing how much work she needed sparked the fire within Walters to become a self-made player, allowing her to light up opposing defenses over the last four years, helping her earn a full ride to Regis University.
Throughout her journey, Walters has always had that close relationship with her parents, and what’s made it that much better was that during basketball season, her father never tried to be the parent-coach after games.
“My family has been awesome; they’ve always been there for me,” Walters said. “It’s been really special for me to share this journey with my family. My dad could have been that coach all the time, and he’s never been that way.
“People think our relationship is much different than it is, but he’s never forced basketball or golf on me,” she said. “They’ve just been things I’ve loved to do with him. He’s just always been there for me, and there’s really good balance there with him as a coach and a parent, and I’ve always respected that about him.
“I know some people that don’t love sports anymore because of that type of relationship, but that’s never been the case for me. My parents have been nothing but supportive, never overbearing with sports. It’s meant the world to me.”
Walters will look to build new relationships at Regis University this summer. She leaves for school on Aug. 23. While at Regis, Walters will pursue something in mathematics, whether that’s as a school teacher, or something else in the field. Walters credits Robert Weiher, her math teacher during her senior year, for helping her fall in love with math again.
“He moved here from Denver this year, and I’m super thankful that he did, because he made me fall in love with math again,” Walters said. “I’ll be working with him over the summer to help prepare me for school, but I just really wanted to get into a subject that had a lot of options. I can do a lot of things with math, whether that’s a school teacher or something else in the field. Who knows? Maybe I’m meant to be a math teacher. Things will always work themselves out.”
For Walters, things have certainly worked themselves out in her favor over the last four years. During that time, Rifle High School, and the Rifle community are better off for having followed Walters on that journey.
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