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Sunday, Aug. 28, 2016

Vining will get rare opportunity in college

Sunday, March 14, 2004

Rachael Vining
SIKESTON -- With a chill in the air, Rachael Vining walks outside donning her letter jacket, with letter patches from volleyball and track covering seemingly every inch of available space. She, like millions of other high school students, is active in more than one sport.

Some of those high school athletes, like Vining, are even talented enough to play collegiate athletics. However, unlike most, Vining earned a scholarship to play two college sports.

Vining, a standout for the Sikeston volleyball and track teams, has signed to play both sports at Florissant Valley College in St. Louis.

"That is a rare event," said Sikeston track coach Jerry Dement. "Anytime kids are fortunate to play collegiately in one sport, much less two that is something. She can handle the dual roles. She's done it all through high school. She is good student and knows what it takes to be successful in a classroom as well as on the track or on the volleyball court."

For Vining the chance to play two sports in college was a relief.

"I wanted to play volleyball because I like it more but I am better at track," Vining said. "I have a lot of heart for volleyball but I think I can make it farther in track."

The chance to play two sports came about unexpectedly for Vining. Following her heart, Vining went on a volleyball tryout at Flo Valley.

"After I tried out, the coach, Johnna Kinney, took me to meet the track coach because she thought I might be interested in doing both," Vining said.

"When I walked into (Coach Norris Stevens') office he said he had heard of me before."

From there everything fell into place for Vining, something that did not come as a surprise to Sikeston volleyball coach Steve Beydler.

"I knew that she always preferred volleyball but also she knew that if she didn't get a scholarship she could fall back on track," Beydler said. "She is quite a track athlete and this just happened to be the perfect fit for her."

Participating in the long jump, triple jump, 4x100 relay and 100-meter hurdles, Vining earned 42 medals in her sophomore and junior seasons.

"She's a big leader for us track-wise," Dement said. "She's been our top scorer the last couple of years and she's been very, very close to going to the state finals the last couple of years."

"(Rachael) has good speed, she has good jumping ability, she's got good rhythm but I think her strongest suit is she is really a good competitor."

While Vining has obvious talent in track, she is no slouch on the volleyball court either.

"I tried out for volleyball (in the eighth grade) not knowing what volleyball was," Vining said. "Coach (Crystie) Drake said I was a good jumper and she gave me that little pep that got me going."

That pep led to a position on the varsity team as a sophomore.

"By her junior and senior year, I don't think she hardly came off the floor," Beydler said.

Vining earned first team all-district as a junior and second team all-district as a senior along with all-conference honors both years. She also recently received another honor being named to the BA Sports Volleyball all-star game that will take place on April 2.

Vining was nominated by Beydler and area coaches selected the team.

"I was really excited," Vining said. "I know that to be voted for it is a pretty big deal because coaches around here have to see your talent and see what you can really do."

And while Vining is looking forward to playing volleyball in college, she still has plenty left to accomplish in high school, including qualifying for the state championships in the long jump after falling two inches short last year.

"I want to get to state," Vining said. "I've never been there before and my best friend went last year. I really want to get there with her."

It is that kind of determination Dement said will help Vining not only in the upcoming track season but college as well.

"Rachael is a good all-around athlete and she has good competitive nature," Dement said. "She doesn't like to lose and is willing to work hard to prevent that."

And if that hard work continues, Vining's college letter jacket will have just as many patches as her high school jacket.