Wagstrom inks with Mesa

Phil Sandoval

RIFLE ” From an athletic standpoint, Bear paws are beating a path from Rifle to Grand Junction.

By signing a letter of intent to play basketball at Mesa State College, Krista Wagstrom, a senior at Rifle High School, is joining a rapidly expanding list of RHS graduates who have continued their athletic careers in Maverick uniforms.

Currently, five RHS grads play for Mesa State on three different sports teams.

Megan Langstaff is a starter on the Maverick’s women’s basketball team. Brian Beecraft plays on the mens basketball team. Three other former Bears ” Alfonso Alfini, Justin Brun and Ryan Whittington ” play for Mesa’s football team.

Beginning with the 2004-05 season, Wagstrom will be the sixth former Bear wearing Mesa State maroon and white, joining 2001 RHS grad Megan Langstaff on the Mavs’ women’s basketball team.

Krista is the daughter of Neal and Susan Wagstrom of Silt.

“I played against her as a freshman,” Wagstrom recalled. “Megan’s a great role model and it’s nice to have someone familiar to play with.”

Having an former teammate to hang with at Mesa is a bonus, but it wasn’t the key factor to Wagstrom’s selecting Mesa State.

“Mesa State was the only school to offer a scholarship if I signed early,” she said.

Wagstrom’s path to Mesa State started last summer, according to Rick Schmitz, Rifle High’s head girls basketball coach.

Mesa State coach Steve Kirkham “approached me at a camp this summer and he liked a lot of things about Krista,” Schmitz said. “I knew they were interested in Krista and they were pretty high on her.”

The veteran coach feels Wagstrom, 6 feet tall, will adapt to the college game easily.

“With her desire and determination, Krista will fit right in. She is the most determined and hardest working player I have been associated with in 25 years of coaching,” Schmitz noted.

“She works five to six hours on some days to improve all aspects of her game. But the best quality about Krista is her burning desire to improve and be coached. She is not only an outstanding player, but she is even a better person.”

Jack Smith, Schmitz’s assistant agrees.

“It’s hard to measure because we haven’t seen that kind of commitment too often,” he said. “Krista is a top individual, loves the game and is great to see.”

Part of Wagstrom’s commitment to the game is her durability.

Playing for the 4 Seasons Basketball program, club coach Mike Cox said Wagstrom practiced for 78 straight days until Cox urged her off the court because she was ill.

Although Wagstrom has officially signed, the Mesa State coaches cannot comment, under NCAA rules, on incoming players until the school receives an athlete’s letter of intent.

She said the Mesa coaching staff expects to have her play as a small forward.

One thing is sure, Wagstrom’s thankful about the opportunity.

“I want to thank my coaches and my parents who devoted all the time for me to do this,” she said Monday.

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