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Rebecca Rippee named to top 10

by Chuck Smock

Rebecca Rippee’s career at Douglas High School has featured an almost unbelievable mixture of academics and athletics.

The senior, who never has received a “B” as a final grade on a report card, is one of four DHS students with a perfect 4.0 grade-point average vying for class valedictorian honors. Her final semester at Douglas includes advanced-placement classes in English, government and calculus, as well as classes in physics and anatomy.

Rippee began her senior sports campaign by helping the Tigers win the state volleyball championship last fall. She also was a starter on the Douglas basketball and softball teams, both of which fell one game short of advancing to their state tournaments. As a junior, she went to state with the DHS volleyball and softball teams.

Obviously, there have been many bright spots for Rippee during the last four years, but the biggest may have come recently when she was named one of the Top 10 Student Athletes in Northern Nevada. The award is sponsored by the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association, the Reno Gazette-Journal and KRNV News Channel 4.

“I have been one of the luckiest people at Douglas,” Rippee said, when asked to sum up her years as a Tiger. “Having gone through the classes I’ve gone through and having been on teams that have been so caring, I’ve been so lucky. It’s been very enjoyable. There are so many things I’ll never forget.”

Rippee was nominated for the award by DHS athletics director Steve Wilcox. She is the first Tiger to earn the honor in the seven years Wilcox has been selecting Douglas’ candidate.

“You have to have pretty lofty credentials to get in that group,” Wilcox said. “You have to play multiple sports and have the GPA. Rebecca was a shoe-in, but, heck, I was pretty excited when I found out she got it. It’s a nice deal for her, for her family and for the school.”

Rippee will attend the University of Nevada, Reno, this fall. She plans to study biochemistry, hopes eventually to attend medical school at UNR and has her sights set on becoming a pediatrician.

Rippee, Heidi Alder, Phil Garrindo and Julie Robison all have 4.0 GPAs and are in the running for 1999 class valedictorian. If they all finish with perfect averages, they’ll share the valedictorian honor.

And that’s something Rippee has been thinking about for four years.

“I’ve been planning my speech since the end of my freshman year,” she said with a laugh. “I don’t remember anything I’ve planned, but every time I think about the people who have been important to me and the people who have influenced me, it’s been on my mind.

“The first time I started to think about the speech, I was thinking about Chris and Karen Burns, who were seniors on the softball team when I was a freshman. They taught me so much about being part of a team, about working hard, about having a positive attitude.

“They are such special people to me. I look up to them so much. This year, especially, when I was trying to be a captain and a leader, I wanted to give my teammates the same experience Chris and Karen gave me when I was a freshman.”

Rippee is also quick to point out how important her parents, Bonnie and Mike, have been in her development as a student and as an athlete.

“My parents have always been there for me,” she said. “They’ve helped me through the times when I was down, but they help me make my own decisions, so that I learn from it rather than them telling me what to do.”

One of those “down” times was a day most students will have a hard time relating to.

“Once, I came home crying because I thought I was going to get an A-minus,” Rippee said with another laugh. “I know there is (a ‘B’ in her future). And I know when I get that first one, I’m going to be devastated.”

Rippee added that her family support group even extends to her younger brother, Luke, who is a 7th-grader at Carson Valley Middle School. She joked about a brother-sister bonding moment late in the softball season.

“I came home one night and I was feeling down about not getting a hit,” she said. “And Luke came up and said, ‘When I was in 10-year-old All Stars, there was one game when I didn’t get a hit…’ Like he’s been through everything. It should be me giving him the advice, not him giving me the advice.

“Seriously, though, he’s always the first one to congratulate me and to be happy for me. I love my family more than anything. They’re so special to me.”

The senior seasons

Rippee was a tri-captain, along with fellow seniors Kaycee Green and Lulu Sewell, on the Douglas volleyball team that won the Nevada state championship last fall. It was the first volleyball title for the Tigers in 15 years. All three players returned from the team that finished second in the state the previous year.

“That team went through so many things all season, so many ups and downs,” Rippee said. “That showed if you really come together as a team, that great things can happen. (The state championship match) was the most exciting sporting event I’ve ever been involved in.”

Less than a week later, Rippee and a half-dozen of her volleyball teammates found themselves in basketball practice. The Tigers won five of their last six division games to make the playoffs, where they lost in the first round to Galena – by a single basket – with a berth in the state tournament on the line.

DHS basketball coach Werner Christen said Rippee’s persona on the court was the exact opposite of her everyday demeanor.

“She’s not real nice on the floor,” Christen said with admiration in his voice. “She can get a little nasty. She’s a competitor. But that’s the way you want it. You want people who have a little bit of nasty in them on the court and who are good citizens off the court. That’s Rebecca in a nutshell.

“We’re going to miss her. She was a leader and she was respected. You can’t ask for much more than that.”

Julie Baker, who took over as the Douglas softball coach this spring, lived across street from the Rippees from the time Rebecca was about six months old. Baker even baby-sat for Rebecca and Luke.

“I was very proud to be able to see her through her senior year,” Baker said. “Watching her grow up, it was great to see how competitive she became.

“Last year, it was hard being an assistant coach because I didn’t want to favor her. But she’s like a sister, and you want to see her do so well.”

And while the basketball season ended in disappointment, Rippee said being able to jump right onto the softball diamond eased the pain.

She admitted, though, that she became increasingly aware of the impending end to her days at Douglas as the spring progressed.

When the Tigers lost to the Reed Raiders in the zone softball tournament last Friday, reality set in.

“After the game, it was just terrible,” Rippee said. “You know the whole year it was lurking around the corner: Softball is going to end; your career at Douglas is going to end.

“School’s almost over and I’m going to be graduating. It’s bittersweet. It’s exciting, but it’s also so sad because I have all these great memories.”

One of the first people to try to console Rippee after the loss to Reed was senior center fielder Rosie Contri, who also played basketball and golf at Douglas.

“It was difficult. I was really sad,” Contri said of the moments following the season-ending softball defeat. “Basketball was my sport and she was my shoulder to cry on when our season ended. Softball was her sport. It meant a lot that I was her shoulder to cry on.”

Rippee doesn’t plan to pursue a competitive sports career at UNR. She’ll play intramurals, and may get involved in student government. She also said she is entertaining the thought of joining a sorority.

“I’m going to try to be involved in as many things as possible,” Rippee said. “I’m used to doing something every minute. I always want to be doing something fun.”