Bridget Rieken could have gone Division I in any of the three sports she plays at Lake City. But the opportunity to play in the Pac-12 and stay relatively close to home to Washington State was one too great to pass up.
“I chose soccer. Definitely soccer,” she said before track practice last week. “I like being outside and like the environment, and there’s always something to learn. I’m just fully engaged in soccer.
“I really enjoyed basketball, and I wouldn’t have changed that for the world. But just being in a gym is not for me. I just didn’t like that part of it.”
Rieken, who starred in soccer, basketball and track for the Timberwolves, rarely has a minute to herself. Summers were spent on traveling soccer teams, and she often shuttles from one practice to the next in different sports. Add a part-time job, and her family and friends don’t see much of her as it is.
“I’ve been here for 23 years and I don’t know if I can think of an athlete that’s a better competitor than she is,” Lake City girls track coach Kelly Reed said.
Reed recalls a story of when Rieken was a freshman at her first track meet. She was scheduled to run the 200 against one of the top athletes in the county.
“She just looked at me,” Reed said. “And she had this look. And she’s like, ‘I’m gonna go kick her butt.’ And from that moment, I was like, ‘I love that girl.’
“She just plays harder than everybody else and outworks everybody else. And then you put a 6-foot (tall), fantastic athlete behind that, and that’s what you have. That’s why you’ve got a Pac-12 athlete.”
With a perpetually busy practice schedule growing up, she didn’t get much lake time as a lot of kids do in Coeur d’Alene.
“Obviously, sports are what I do for fun,” she said. “But outside of that, I love family time. Anytime that I get to spend with family or friends like I just want to cherish those moments while I have them.”
Rieken, who plans to study sports management or sports nutrition, said the recruiting process was difficult.
“For me, it like just happened so fast,” she said. “I was getting recruited freshman year in high school. I didn’t really know the full process or how it worked.”
She got some guidance from a couple of the seniors ahead of her at Lake City.
“That was really helpful,” she said. “But once you start to get into the recruiting process, it’s very stressful. It was probably one of the most stressful things I’ve ever done or been a part of.”
Rieken described late nights making recruiting videos and sending out emails to coaches while friends were doing normal teenage stuff. Things escalated when she got old enough to talk to college coaches in person.
“Once I started talking to schools, it got way more stressful,” she said. “Having my parents there to help me was, honestly, the best thing. It’s the only thing that got me through the recruiting process.”
Rieken said the recruiting process for soccer might be more difficult than for some other sports.
“I think the biggest part that people don’t understand is that you have to put yourself out there first, in certain sports,” she said. “They’re not always going to come to you. You always have to get out there.
“That part was hard for me. Because I didn’t like to engage first – be the first person to start the communication. So that’s the part that was hard for me.”
Like many college-bound athletes, a campus visit sold her on Pullman. When pressed about the deciding factor, Rieken noted the Pac-12 tradition and facilities, but said she just felt like she belonged.
“It sounds cheesy, but honestly, just everything about it,” she said. “Once I was there, I was like, ‘I like everything about this school.’ ”
It helped that after she committed, her brother decided to enroll at neighboring Idaho. She likes that it’s close enough to get home but far enough away to start to gain independence.
“Yeah, I feel like I’m on my own a little bit. But if I need help, they’re there.”
Rieken, who carries a 3.98 grade-point average and has earned 12 varsity letters, was recently named North Idaho female soccer player of the year and was a finalist for female athlete and female basketball player. She was first-team all-state in soccer, second team in basketball and is headed for similar honors in track.
Her list of accomplishments on her résumé fills the page.
“Sometimes I just feel in soccer, defenders don’t get enough credit,” she said. “It’s always forwards or goalkeepers. And so to be acknowledged for something so special as a defender, it just means a lot because that (rarely) happens.”
But it’s a special athlete who is nominated as player of the year in two sports.
“Yeah, it is weird, because sometimes I feel like I get more attention in basketball than I do in soccer,” she said.
We’ve barely even mentioned the sport in season, where she’s part of two No. 1-ranked relay teams, the 4x200 and 4x400, and ranked fourth in state in the 400-meter individually.
“It’s kind of weird, we’re first in the state,” she said. “That was a really big moment for our team.
“I mean, a lot can change before state, but we feel really confident going into it. Running a 4-flat, that’s unheard of at this time of the year. And so like all of us are just so motivated to push ourselves and do better and go to state at our best and just see what happens.”
Reed said the rankings are a testament to his squad’s natural talent shining.
“I try not to get too caught up in that,” he said. “But to be No. 1 at this time of the season, especially considering our weather conditions and our inability to practice outside until after spring break, it’s just, it’s pretty impressive. It’s a good example of how talented these girls are. I mean, because they’re doing a lot of it just on ability.
“What’s fun about track is that it’s not subjective. You can’t say, ‘Oh, well, she’s maybe …’ I mean, you just look at those times. They don’t lie.”
Rieken mentioned several Lake City athletes who were her role models as she came up, and she relishes the opportunity to be that for her younger teammates now.
“I definitely do,” she said. “And I feel like I probably don’t acknowledge it enough. I know, even at the high school, there’s like a few girls that just look up to me. And they support me and all my decisions and they’re there for me and they just want to learn from me.
“They’ll come to me with questions about recruiting, or soccer, or just life. And I’m like, ‘Oh, people like actually look up to me.’ ”