Kevin Colley, Staff Writer
WHEELERSBURG — Strong student-athletes are, in essentially every situation, willing to take on more than what is asked of them in order to succeed.
For Christen Risner, that’s something the senior has done all of her life.
That’s not going to change for Wheelersburg’s latest college signee anytime soon, because she wasn’t going to let the norm deter her from doing something she wanted to do.
Risner, who will graduate as one of the school’s best multi-sport athletes in its history, will attempt to accomplish the same feat at the University of Rio Grande. The senior has officially signed to participate with both the RedStorm’s softball and women’s soccer programs.
For Risner, the rare opportunity to play multiple sports in college is one she knows she can take on with pride.
“It’s definitely going to be a challenge,” Risner said. “Normally, you definitely see just one-sport athletes in college, rather than two. Playing two sports in high school takes a pretty big level of commitment, so I have to manage my time very well. Still, it’s very exciting to play both at the next level, and I can’t imagine myself not playing both in college. I’m thrilled for the opportunities that Rio Grande has given me.”
As a two-sport standout, Risner will leave Wheelersburg as one of the area’s all-time best soccer and softball talents to ever hit the region — and that’s saying a great deal considering Risner still has another full softball season left to play.
Over her career, Risner has been nothing short of excellent.
On the pitch, she was a first-team all-SOC selection and an all-district honoree throughout each of her four seasons, accumulating an incredible 82 goals and 59 assists en route to posting a simply insane 223 points — easily a school record —as the Pirates garnered an outstanding 64-6-7 record alongside three consecutive district championships.
On the diamond, Risner’s success has been just as pronounced.
A three-year starter at center field, the the Pirates’ leadoff hitter has served as a lynchpin in coach Teresa Ruby’s program. Following Wheelersburg’s state championship in Risner’s freshman season, the Pirates responded with a state final appearance in Risner’s sophomore campaign and a regional semifinal appearance this past spring, behind the senior’s exceptional quickness around the base paths and feel for the game in all areas.
Between the aforementioned girls soccer mark and Risner’s contribution to a 77-7 overall record that Wheelersburg’s softball program has amassed, Risner has garnered an astounding 141-13-7 overall mark as a high school athlete — which means the Pirates’ girls soccer and softball programs have collected wins in 87.6 percent of contests that Risner has participated in.
In case you’re wondering, that’s not too bad at all.
“It’s a lot of hard work to get to that point of success,” Risner said. “There’s a lot of hard work and a lot of practices that were involved. We put in the work, and we want to see the results. Right now, we all have one vision, and that is to get back to the Final Four in softball. We have a great team that’s coming out … it’s just a matter of maintaining that same vision, and we’ll be successful in the spring.”
As much as Risner has helped shaped the formation of both teams with her leadership both on and off the playing surfaces, it’s clear the coaching abilities of the previously mentioned Ruby, along with girls soccer coach Todd Jarvis, have a lot to do with that fact as well.
In fact, over their 10 combined seasons as head coaches, the pair have amassed eight — that’s right, eight — district championships and regional semifinal appearances between them while establishing a new penchant of success for the school in both sports.”(Todd) Jarvis is a father figure,” Risner said.
“He wants the best for us. However, with that comes harsh criticism, love every now and then, and praise. Teresa Ruby is great. She and the entire coaching staff are like parents to me. They always have my back, always put grades first, and always expect the best from us while understanding that we make mistakes sometimes. They’re just really understanding about our choices.”
With Rio Grande, Risner will be playing under two additional coaches who have proven that they, too, are striving for higher success in Chris Hammond and Tony Daniels. The former has led the RedStorm to a sterling 123-29 record on the softball diamond in his three seasons as head coach — including three consecutive River States Conference Championships and appearances at the NAIA National Tournament level — while the latter has led Rio Grande to a more-than-respectable 10-6-2 record in River States Conference play.
“Visiting Rio Grande wasn’t expected,” Risner said. “I was actually going to do more of my own thing, but as I moved forward and finished my last soccer game, I just felt like I couldn’t leave the sport of soccer. I have to do this sport for four more years. That’s when I got in contact with (Tony) Daniels and (Chris) Hammond, and they said, ‘Come on a visit.’ I said, ‘I’ll do it.’ I loved everything about it. It was a very cool experience.”
While home will always be where the heart is, the belief that Rio Grande has in Risner to balance her academic and athletic endeavors successfully made the choice a natural fit.
“I love this place,” Risner said of Wheelersburg. “It’s great. I wouldn’t want to go to any other school, ever. It’s great walking through the halls and just knowing that you know everybody. We all love each other. The teachers care about you and they give you the opportunities to succeed. It’s just going to be a challenge not seeing my family and friends on a daily basis. That’s going to be tough. However, I’ll get to meet additional people and formulate new relationships at Rio Grande, and I’m very blessed for that opportunity.”