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Locally: Washington State’s Krystal Leger-Walker, Colton Johnsen earn Pac-12 Tom Hansen Medals

June 28, 2022 Updated Tue., June 28, 2022 at 9:41 p.m.

From staff and news services

From staff and news services

Women’s basketball player Krystal Leger-Walker and men’s distance runner Colton Johnsen were named Washington State University’s 2021-22 recipients of the Pac-12 Conference Tom Hansen Medal that goes annually to each school’s outstanding senior female and male student-athlete based on scholastic, athletic and leadership accomplishments.

Leger-Walker, from Waikato, New Zealand, played two years for the Cougars and led them to 31 wins, including a program-best 19 during the 2021-22 season, and the first back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances in program history.

While doing this, she led the conference in assists – 109 in the 2020-21 season and 243 over the two seasons – and earned back-to-back All-Pac-12 honorable mention and all-defensive team honorable mention.

In the classroom, Leger-Walker was a two-time Pac-12 winter academic honor roll recipient and earned an undergraduate degree in finance and management. She is pursuing a master’s degree in sport management and volunteers at Cougars athletic holiday events for local kids.

Johnsen, from Bellingham, was a recipient of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) True Cougar award that is given to two seniors who started their WSU careers as nonscholarship student-athletes and went on define leadership, commitment to excellence and Cougar Pride.

In only three years, Johnsen became one of the best distance runners in school history. He was a six-time NCAA All-American – four indoor track and two outdoor – and ranks in the top 10 in WSU history in five events.

He maintains a 4.0 GPA as an MBA candidate after earning an undergraduate degree in marketing, and was on the 2022 Pac-12 winter academic honor roll, and volunteers as a Coug Pal (pen pal) with local elementary children.

Baseball

Jake Valentine, who has spent the past seven years at the University of Portland following two seasons as an assistant at Santa Clara, has been named an assistant coach, third-base coach and recruiting coordinator at Washington State University, Cougars head coach Brian Green announced.

At Portland, Valentine was an assistant in 2016-17, hitting coach and recruiting coordinator in 2018-22 and was promoted to associate head coach prior the 2022 season. As recruiting coordinator, the Vancouver, Washington, native brought in three consecutive nationally ranked classes.

The 2022 Pilots finished second in the West Coast Conference, earning their first trip to the conference tournament, and had the most wins (32) since 2010, including a program-record 17 conference wins.

College scene

Gonzaga and Washington State each had 12 named 2021-22 Collegiate Rowing Coaches Association Division I scholar athletes with GPAs of 3.5 over above. The number is a program best for GU.

Gonzaga: Sydney Bohn, senior; Clare Bretschneider, junior; Megan Chalfant, grad student; Hannah Cooney, sophomore; Grace Dojan, jr.; Quinn Elsenbast, so.; Kaley Grau, jr.; Mollie Monson, so.; Grace Nickas, sr.; Lucianne Salmick, sr.; Perrine Sarraute, so.; Maddie Sontag, so.

WSU: Ainsley Tiernan, so.; Audrey Gulig, so.; Caitlin Donaldson, jr.; Cate Field, jr.; Ella Greenslade, jr.; Emma Barrett, fifth year; Gabby Hannen, sr.; Ilaria Macchi, so.; Madeleine Pollard, jr.; Meg Montgomery, sr.; Samantha Schmidt, sr.; Sydney Wick, so.

• The Division III CRCA scholar-athlete list includes two area athletes at Pacific Lutheran, Elizabeth Horner, a senior from Mt. Spokane, who earned her second honor, and Corrie Grieves, a junior from Mead.

• Four Idaho teams – men’s and women’s cross country and men’s and women’s golf – posted perfect four-year NCAA Academic Progress Rate scores of 1,000 and 12 of the Vandals’ 14 teams improved their overall APR’s or stayed the same for the 2020-21 academic year.

It was the fourth consecutive perfect score for women’s cross country and a team-high seventh consecutive perfect score for women’s golf. Women’s swimming and diving, women’s track and field, women’s basketball and soccer all posted scores above 990. Volleyball had a 15-point improvement from the previous report.

Cross country/track

Oliva Hobbs from Victoria, Australia, is transferring to join the Gonzaga University women’s team after two years at NCAA Division I Bradley (Illinois) University, GU head coach Jake Stewart announced.

Hobbs competed in three meets as a sophomore for the Braves in 2021-22, clocking personal bests of 22 minutes, 46.2 seconds for 6K and 18:53.0 for 5K. She’s run a 4:37.4 for 1,500 and 5:03.79 for a mile. Scholastically, she made the Missouri Valley Conference honor roll in 2021 and was on the Bradley Athletic Director’s honor roll three times.

High school scene

Carmen Kiewert of Deer Park and Magdalyn Ogden of Clarkston were named winners of WIAA, Gesa Credit Union, the Dairy Farmers of Washington and Les Schwab Tires’ 10th annual Smart Choices Scholarships.

They received $5,000 scholarships to the schools of their choice. In addition, Alice Groza of Lewis and Clark and Kenzi Pedersen of Garfield-Palouse, among finalists for the Smart Choices award, received $1,000 scholarships.

Kiewert, a three-sport athlete with a 4.0 GPA who will attend Park University in Parkville, Missouri, where she will play soccer, reached the highest levels of success both athletically and academically. She was senior class president and DECA president the past two years.

She helped lead the Stags to the State 1A soccer championship in the fall of 2021 after they finished fourth in 2018. She was All-Northeast A League first team and second-team all-state as a senior, and was the NEA girls tennis singles MVP this spring.

Ogden, who will attend Grand Canyon University, was also a three-sport athlete with a 4.0 GPA who earned 11 letters and graduated as class valedictorian. She served in leadership roles as captain of her basketball, volleyball and archery teams and was a member of the WIAA LEAP Committee.

At Clarkston, she participated in volleyball, basketball and tennis, highlighted by a third-place State 2A finish in basketball in 2019. Ogden was All-GSL 2A in basketball as a senior and was all-state in volleyball. In addition, she was a state champion archer through the National Archer in Schools program.

Volleyball

Cara McKenzie, who turned in an All-West Coast Conference honorable mention season in her only year at Gonzaga University in 2021-22, is taking her game overseas to play professionally for Polkky Kuusamo, the top Finnish volleyball league’s reigning champions.

This year, Polkky Kuusamo will compete in the European Champions League.

The 6-foot-1 middle blocker from Belchertown, Massachusetts, a grad transfer from Division II Adelphi University, had the third-best single-season hitting percentage in GU program history (.309), a team-high 68 blocks with the third-most kills (191) and points (242) with only 60 errors.

Miscellany

Caleb Heim has been hired as the University of Idaho’s director of strength and conditioning after serving as assistant strength and conditioning coach at the University of South Dakota since early 2018, Vandals athletics director Terry Gawlik announced.

She also announced that Jack Rinzel, a graduate assistant at South Dakota, was hired as Idaho’s assistant strength coach.

At South Dakota, Heim worked with the football, women’s basketball and softball teams. The football team earned a trip to the 2021 FCS playoffs and the women’s basketball team won three consecutive Summit league championships, had four NCAA Tournament appearances and advanced to the Sweet 16 in 2022.

Prior to South Dakota, Heim was a graduate assistant at Nebraska, where he worked with the Cornhuskers football team. He was also the head strength and conditioning coach at his alma mater, Southwest Minnesota State, in 2014-15.

Rinzel, who played lacrosse at Division III Stevenson University in Maryland, has experience as a national-level powerlifter.

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