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Photo by Eric Goold Sophie Anderson signs her letter of intent to play basketball at Colorado Mesa University. She is flanked by Paonia coach Scott Rienks (left) and her parents Brad Anderson and Jo Quiring (right). Paonia coaches Brent McRae and John Blair (assistant basketball coach) stand behind the group.
Photo by Eric Goold Brianna Van Vleet signs her letter of intent to run track at Idaho State University. On either side are her parents David and Tracy and brother Jordan. Coaches Scott Rienks and Brent McRae are behind the Van Vleets.

Two Eagles leaving nest; flying to college

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Two of the best Eagles will be taking their talents to the next level.

Paonia High School seniors Sophie Anderson and Brianna Van Vleet signed letters of intent last Wednesday and will play for colleges next year.

Anderson will play basketball at Colorado Mesa University and Van Vleet will run track at Idaho State University.

Coach Scott Rienks mentored both Eagles in their respective sports.

"What it does say is I've had some really good kids come through this program," Rienks said. "I've been very fortunate to have been part of their lives and maybe help them out in some way. I'm very fortunate that we are able to get some of these kids off to college."

Anderson came to Paonia from Hoehne last year before her junior season. It didn't take her long to fit right in with the athletic Eagles on the volleyball, basketball and track teams.

"I adjusted to them really well and they all really welcomed me," Anderson said. "And it was great to improve and succeed. We did really well as a team in all the sports."

Anderson follows former Eagle Carson Pipher to CMU, where coach Taylor Wagner teaches a similar system to Rienks'. Anderson also visited CSU-Pueblo and Western State before choosing CMU.

"I really liked Mesa. Liked the coach, liked their program, and thought it would be the best fit for me," Anderson said. "I liked the girls, I got to play with them and meet them a little bit and I really liked the coach."

Van Vleet set the state record in the long jump last season as a junior and has been a vital member of the four-time state champion Eagles track team.

She chose Idaho State over Colorado State and follows her sister Ashley Van Vleet, who went to run track for the Bengals a year ago.

"That does play a role, but the decision was for me, a hundred percent," Van Vleet said. "I think that's something I'm definitely confident in saying. Unsure a little bit before but now I can definitely say Idaho State was my decision fully and I'm more than happy with my decision."

Van Vleet intends to study zoology when she gets to Pocatello, Idaho next year. She said academics will come first for her in college but at the same time is excited about competing for the Bengals.

"They have a good track program and they're building it up," Van Vleet said. "I know one thing is that I'm going to get pushed there and will go to my full potential. Especially having Ashley there I know she's always pushed me in the past and she's going to continue to push me."

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