Chrisman basketball standouts Szopinski, Moore head to Missouri Valley together; track star Leutzinger picks Wichita State

Bill Althaus
The Examiner
William Chrisman's Amanda Szapinski, Wyatt Leutzinger and Gia Moore, from left, signed national letters of intent Wednesday afternoon to continue their athletic pursuits at the collegiate level. Szopinski and Moore, a star guard tandem for the Bears, both signed with Missouri Valley College. Leutzinger, a cross country runner and track and field performer who specializes in the pole vault, signed with Division I power Wichita State.

For the past three seasons William Chrisman High School guards Amanda Szopinski and Gia Moore have been one of the premier backcourts in Eastern Jackson County.

First-year Missouri Valley College head coach Ben Lister believes they can carry that chemistry to the Vikings program, where he hopes to have the same success he enjoyed the previous seven years at Baker University, where he was named the Heart of America Athletic Conference's Women's Coach of the Year three times.

Szopinski and Moore, who helped lead the Bears to their first state final four appearance since 1993, signed their national letters of intent Wednesday at Chrisman, joining multi-event cross country and track and field standout Wyatt Leutzinger, who disregarded many more lucrative scholarship offers to sign with Division I power Wichita State University.

"This is a big day for Chrisman and these three outstanding young student-athletes," Chrisman activities director Greg McGhee said before introducing each student and members of their family. "This is one of the best days of the year."

Lister is eager for Szopinski and Moore to join the Missouri Valley program.

"You know how important team chemistry is," Lister said. "When we played for the national championship at Baker during the 2015-16 season we had a guard tandem who had been together since high school and they played such a big role in our success that season.

"And I'm hoping that Amanda and Gia come and help us create a great program at Missouri Valley. Since I'm a first-year head coach, I didn't really recruit Gia, but I talked with Coach (Scott) Schaefer at Chrisman and he told me what a great player and person she is.

"I did recruit Amanda – and I know that any players who played for Coach Schaefer, who I respect so much, will come to our program with a great deal of basketball knowledge. We're so excited to have each of them."

The feeling is mutual.

"I am so excited," Szopinski said, "and playing with Gia makes me 100 times more excited. I'm going to college with one of my best friends and someone I've played with for a long time. I know what she's thinking on the court and she knows what I'm thinking, and we can take that chemistry to college and feel more comfortable with a new program."

Moore was quick to add, "In basketball, chemistry is everything, and Amanda and I have a great deal of chemistry. I love playing with her and it's going to be so special to be part of a new team with a new coach. Every time I talk with Coach Lister I get more and more excited."

Leutzinger, who will likely try the decathlon in college, is excited about the future. So is Chrisman track coach Tyler Rathke.

"I am so proud of Wyatt's decision because he could have gone to some smaller schools and had college paid for," Rathke said. "But he wants the challenge of competing at one of the best colleges in the nation against some of the top athletes in the nation, and I know his hard work and dedication to the sport is going to pay off."

Leutzinger, who Rathke now calls "a beast," was a skinny freshman when he arrived at Chrisman.

"I'd have been lost at Chrisman when I was this little freshman if it hadn't been for cross country and track and field," Leutzinger said, as his young nephew Dax cheered him on during his signing ceremony. "I enjoyed cross country, then discovered this crazy thing called the pole vault.

"A lot of guys tried it, and liked it, but didn't stick with it. I stuck with it, had great coaching and can't wait to see what the future holds this Saturday at our district meet and later at Wichita State. Just saying Wichita State makes me so happy, and today, it all seems real to me."