Niemeyer stands out in competition


Diana Zimmerman

Reigha Niemeyer, WHS Valedictorian.

Reigha Niemeyer has known for many years that if she wanted to go to college, she would have to pay for it. That's one reason this year's valedictorian at Wahkiakum High School is graduating with a 4.0, but it may also be another expression of the competitiveness that is so central to this four and even five sport athlete.

"I've always had good grades," Niemeyer said. "I don't know why. If I didn't do good, I would be failing myself."

Like both her parents before her, Niemeyer will continue her athletic career at college, joining the Red Devil women's basketball team at Lower Columbia College in the fall. After she completes her studies there, she plans to transfer to a university to pursue a degree in elementary education, and hopefully continue to play basketball.

Her mom and dad, Tiffany and Marc Niemeyer, are educators at WHS. Niemeyer was considering becoming a physicians assistant at one time, pretty certain about one thing: she never wanted to be a teacher.

That all changed when she became a lifeguard at the local pool the summer after her sophomore year.

"I was teaching kids swim lessons. I love teaching kids," she exclaimed. "Now [I'm a teaching assistant] at the elementary for the kindergarten class. I teach them a little lesson every day. It's fun, and I like helping them learn."

As for her own favorite teacher, it was easily math teacher Joel Stetzer, though he no longer works at the school district.

"Mr. Stetzer was definitely my favorite teacher," Niemeyer said. "It was more real with him. Not that other teachers treat us like children. He was really good at taking you step by step. It is really important, with math especially, to be able to understand and process it. If you couldn't figure it out this way, he had this way and this way to help you figure it out too. That was always super helpful. I think he was actually a lot of students' favorite. Just because he's so real, and he puts in so much work. He was here at five in the morning. He did test prep with me and helped me study like two hours before school and when the test came I was prepared for it. He'd stay after school too. He was just a really good teacher."

Niemeyer loves math, but science might be even better.

"I think I always loved science," she said. "I always loved biology, but I don't think I would ever go into the field of biology. I loved learning about the particles and cells, and bugs, that was always so cool to me and satisfied me. I think it's nature. It's so fun to be around, and calming."

"Most of my time is filled up with sports," she added, "but I love being outside and hanging out, going on hikes, being by the water. Fishing hunting, riding four wheelers. I'm basically a country girl."

Niemeyer has competed as Mule in volleyball, basketball, softball, and track. This year, she decided to try golf for the first time, but she's still spending a lot of time on the court getting ready for her first year of collegiate basketball.

"I want to focus my time on what my future is going to be," she said.

Niemeyer has received several athletic awards over the years. She has been named to several all league teams, and played on all state teams. This year she was selected as an alternate for the all state basketball team even though the Mules didn't qualify for the state tournament, and not only did she end up going, but she was named the game MVP. And last year, a mark in the javelin earned her eighth place at the state track and field meet.

Sports are a great outlet for this competitor and it's taught her a lot about people and created connections with athletes at other schools and with her own teammates, which she loves.

"I think it is an unreal experience to meet people and connect with them," Niemeyer said. "If you are passing them in the hall, it's just 'Hi,' but if you play sports, you have to learn who they are, and what their character is to be able to play with them and succeed. It's a huge connection piece for me. It's fun to surround yourself with people who have the same goals as you."

Niemeyer had several options as she contemplated her athletic future in college, but she settled on basketball because of the "drive of it."

"If everybody wants to win, you're hustling," she said. "It's like that with every sport, but with basketball it's bloody, it's dirty, it's concussions, it's everything. Basketball is a physical and emotional connection you have to have to be able to win. The girls at LCC are amazing, I love the coach, and Paige (Mace, WHS Class of '21) is actually coaching me next year, as an assistant."

"It's a huge emotional piece," Niemeyer said. "I'm almost emotional with basketball. I've spent my life doing it, I've worked hard for it, and I feel like I earned it."

Niemeyer was also involved in leadership, FFA, Key Club, cooking club, dance club, and was a peer mentor at WHS.


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