CHEYENNE – Kira Brownell still had another visit to an NCAA Division I school on her schedule when she decided where she wanted to continue her swimming career.

“I ended up cancelling it because New Mexico State was where I was supposed to be,” the Cheyenne Central senior said Thursday afternoon. “I wasn’t sure I wanted to go to school there, but, when I got down there, I loved the team and the coaches’ practice and coaching styles.

“The coach is very personable, super nice and kind of like a dad to all the girls. He is a tough coach in practice, but kind of a teddy bear outside of the pool.”

Brownell had baseball caps from Wyoming, North Texas and Dixie State lined up across her table on stage in the Central performance hall, making the schools she chose from clear.

Brownell won the 50-yard freestyle and 100-yard backstroke at this year’s Class 4A state meet. She reset her own school record in the 100 back, and missed the state record by a mere four-hundredths of a second. Brownell also helped Central’s 200 medley relay and 400 freestyle relay teams set new school records.

Her performances throughout the season earned her 4A athlete of the year honors from the state’s coaches.

She knows she can be even better, which is part of the reason she chose to swim for New Mexico State.

“When I was looking at the different schools, I wanted to see which ones had their athletes improve the most,” said Brownell, who plans to study physical education. “They have some really fast girls who have improved a lot since their freshmen years. They’ve really lowered their times there.”

Brownell has been a standout in the pool since she started swimming competitively as a 9-year-old. She committed herself to the sport after her freshman season, and was a two-time state runner-up in the 100 backstroke and a two-time third-place finisher in the 50 freestyle.

What Brownell accomplished this season is a credit to her dedication, Central coach Josh Bott said.

“She had clearly done more than most other people in the state and made herself into a completely different athlete, and put herself in the top tier in the state of Wyoming,” Bott said.

Grenfell will play soccer at Casper

Caitlin Grenfell had her pick of colleges to play soccer at, but any schools that didn’t meet her three stringent requirements were going to be ruled out.

The school had to have a top-flight physical therapy and health sciences program, a strong soccer program and be relatively close to home. Grenfell found all three at Casper College, and inked with the Thunderbirds on Thursday.

“If I decide to do occupational therapy, I can stay in Casper and get my doctorate through the University of North Dakota, and their soccer program is amazing,” Grenfell said. “They were No. 14 in the country, won the region and finished as district runners-up.

“They had a great season and had everything I was looking for. Everything just fell into place.”

David Eldred – who has coached Grenfell in the Cheyenne Sting club organization – first met Grenfell through his work with Wyoming’s Olympic Development Program. Grenfell was living in Evanston at the time, and her style of play caught his eye immediately. She has only gotten better since her family moved to Cheyenne three years ago.

“She was a little firecracker who lit up the field and stood out with the top talent on our ODP team,” Eldred said. “We had to have her on our team, and we were able to take her to compete against some of the best players in the 14-state West Region.”

Gebhart will play softball at Lake Region

Taylor Gebhart decided a few years ago she wanted to play softball in college. She committed herself to competitive softball and attending camps.

That dedication helped her realize her dream, and she signed with Lake Region State College on Thursday. Lake Region is a two-year school not far from the U.S.-Canada border in Devils Lake, North Dakota.

“It felt like a really home-like environment when I went up there on my visit,” Gebhart said. “The team was nice, the coach was nice, and it all felt like home. That’s what I was looking for.

“It took me a while to commit because I wanted to go see it for myself. Once I did, I knew that’s where I wanted to go.”

The infielder and pitcher earned first team all-state honors during Wyoming’s inaugural high school softball season. She batted .429 (18 for 42) with six doubles, two triples, five home runs and 17 RBIs. She also struck out 26 batters across 23-2/3 innings in the pitcher’s circle.

“She had a fantastic season, and is a huge asset on the field,” Indians coach Carrie Barker said. “She’s a great teammate and a great leader for the underclassmen. She is always willing to go the extra mile and take extra reps.

“She does hitting and pitching lessons on her own because she knows if you want to play at the next level, it takes commitment and drive. Taylor has that.”

Gebhart wants to be an elementary education teacher, but will focus on her general studies at Lake Region.

Jeremiah Johnke is the WyoSports editor. He can be reached at jjohnke@wyosports.net or 307-633-3137. Follow him on Twitter at @jjohnke.

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