June 4, 2009 in Sports

Hawks stars prove size doesn’t matter

Lakeland’s McCrite, Reynolds may be small in stature, but not in ability
By The Spokesman-Review
 
KATHY PLONKA kathypl@spokesman.com photo

Lakeland seniors Kyle McCrite and Camille Reynolds are North Idaho Athletes of the Year. McCrite was a two-sport standout (football and wrestling), capturing a second straight state wrestling title. Reynolds was a three-sport standout (soccer, basketball and track), defending a state title in the 300-meter hurdles. kathypl@spokesman.com
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Lakeland High seniors Kyle McCrite and Camille Reynolds are two of the smallest athletes among their peers, but few can match their athletic and academic accomplishments.

McCrite, who defended a state championship in wrestling and was a two-way, two-year starter in football, and Reynolds, a three-sport standout who led the basketball team to state for a fourth straight year, have been named The Spokesman- Review’s North Idaho Male and Female Athletes of the Year.

They’ve spent the last four years making names for themselves at the Rathdrum school. This summer they will work together at a sandwich shop. After that, they’re both headed to North Idaho College.

Their coaches expect them to make as much of an impact at NIC and beyond as they did at Lakeland.

Pound for pound there may not have been any athletes as fiercely competitive as McCrite and Reynolds. McCrite is 5-foot-5 and 125 pounds when he wrestles and Reynolds is 5-4 and several pounds lighter than her friend (without listing her specific weight).

McCrite was accepted at West Point to wrestle. But he turned down the offer because he didn’t want to make a five-year commitment to the military beyond college.

“The more I thought about it, the more I knew the military wasn’t right for me,” McCrite said. “The main reason I’m going to NIC is I wanted to see what college wrestling is like before I commit to doing it for four years.”

He will challenge for a starting spot at 125, the lightest collegiate weight. NIC coach Pat Whitcomb believes McCrite can be an NCAA Division I wrestler.

“He’s going to end up at a Division I school. We’re just glad he’s stopping here first,” Whitcomb said. “He brings a lot to the table. Not only is he a smart wrestler, but he’s a good kid and a great athlete.”

McCrite was a three-time state finalist, losing to teammate Brandon Richardson in an all-Lakeland final three years ago before he cruised to state titles as a junior and senior. He finished as a four-time state medalist. He took fifth as a freshman.

Long before he competed at Lakeland, McCrite found his way into the Hawks’ practice room.

“He was coming up there with his friends as early as sixth grade,” Lakeland wrestling coach Rob Edelblute said. “We’ll miss the intensity that he brought to the room and his work ethic. He never complained. He always did the work and got the job done. It definitely paid off for him.”

McCrite finished with a 130-23 career record. He was 79-5 the last two years, including a Tri-State title as a junior and runner-up finish this year.

He would have likely ended up as Lakeland’s all-time career leader in victories had he not missed the first half of his sophomore season. He managed to make it a memorable year by knocking off the No. 1 seed at state on his way to finishing second.

“It was very rewarding after going through all the rehabilitation,” McCrite said.

He called his win in the Tri-State finals as a junior his best.

“I wrestled perfect,” he said. “It was kind of surreal that I won. I was just hoping to place. I didn’t think I could win.”

McCrite, who graduates with a 3.6 grade-point average, had an impact in football, too. He helped Lakeland earn its first State 4A playoff berth as a junior.

“That was big for me because I was a starter and stepped into a leadership position,” McCrite said.

Football coach Tim Kiefer wanted to limit the times McCrite touched the ball because they needed to use him on both sides of the ball.

“We knew Kyle was the guy we wanted to have touching the ball, but we didn’t know how much he’d be able to handle from a work load standpoint,” Kiefer said. “He took the brunt of a lot of hits. He’s a 130-pound kids going against 180-pound kids. We kind of quit worrying about it and gave the ball to him as much as we wanted.”

Kiefer, who teaches weightlifting, had both McCrite and Reynolds in classes. They never slacked off or cut corners.

“Whatever that intangible thing that coaches talk about that they want their kids to have, they both have it,” Kiefer said. “They definitely have something you wish you could bottle up and sell – or give it to all our other athletes.”

Reynolds averaged 16.5 points, 3.9 steals and 3.3 assists this year in basketball and was named to the 4A All-Idaho first team. She finished with 1,060 career points, third most in school history.

Lakeland fell to eventual state champ Bonneville in overtime in the state semifinals.

“It was emotionally and physically exhausting,” Reynolds said of the semifinal setback. “It was the most exciting game I’ve played in my entire career. Bonneville was the heavy favorite. To be that close to getting to the state title game was exciting.”

Reynolds, who has a 3.7 GPA, credits basketball coach Steve Seymour with having a huge impact on her life and career.

“He’s been my mentor. He’s taught me how to be a better person,” Reynolds said. “He’s honed me in and helped me learn how to control my emotions. I still have a lot of fire, but I feel like I handle it a lot better now.”

Seymour said all he tried to do was steer Reynolds in the right direction.

“When she was a freshman, she was like 4-foot-4 and 47 pounds,” Seymour said. “It was tough to imagine that she would have an impact on as many programs as she did. She’s leaving a legacy. At some point in time she realized the affect that she had on others. Her freshman, sophomore and junior year she was a pretty good athlete. But this year she understood the affect she had on other students, other athletes. She started taking more time to teach the younger kids how to do things correctly – whether it’s to come out of the blocks, run an offense or shoot the ball. That could be one of her greatest gifts … the group of kids that want to be like her because of how she did things.”

Reynolds broke the State 4A meet record and defended her state title in the 300-meter hurdles. Her time of 44.17 seconds was tops in the Pacific Northwest at the time.

She scored a game-high 19 points and had eight rebounds, four steals and one assist to lead the Region team to its first win in the 16th annual Jack Blair Memorial Girls Basketball Classic on Monday. She was named most valuable player.

Reynolds is among the most talented recruiting class NIC coach Chris Carlson has had in six years.

“She just gives us great speed, and she’s a real fighter, a winner,” Carlson said. “I like the way she penetrates and dishes the ball, too. Those are the things that really stand out about her.”

Seymour, who also coaches hurdlers in track, was looking for athletes to consider hurdling last year when he and head coach Lee Libera asked Reynolds to give it a try.

Reynolds took to the hurdles like she had been doing them all her life.

“The best athletes we have at Lakeland are the multisport athletes,” Libera said.

“Camille’s right up there with some of the best we’ve ever had. I really think she could do any sport and be successful at it.”

McCrite summed up himself and Reynolds when he talked about what he gained most out of prep athletics.

“The work ethic is something I can use throughout my life,” McCrite said.


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