ADAIR VILLAGE — Rebeka Preston is Santiam Christian’s woman for all seasons.
Winter, spring or fall, all the Eagles have to do is call and the senior from Independence will be there, helping the basketball, track and volleyball teams retain their status as one of the West Valley League’s elite athletic programs.
Playing three sports, maintaining her grades and commuting every day to and from Independence keeps her incredibly busy. But the Biola University-bound Preston wouldn’t have it any other way.
“Sports is kind of my life, and I love it,” she said Saturday, speaking during a rare quiet moment in the SC cafeteria shortly after the fifth-ranked Eagles had knocked off top-ranked Cascade Christian in four sets in the first game of a triangular that also featured No. 2 Salem Academy.
“Having that be the main part of my life, I don’t really want to take a break. Sometimes I’ll take a break because my body just needs one, but mentally I love doing sports 24/7.”
An engaging 17-year-old, Preston doesn’t fly by the seat of her pants. She’s highly organized, makes a list to plan her day, and it's lights-off at 10 p.m. whenever possible so she can rest and recuperate properly before starting school at 8 o’clock each weekday morning.
“I write down all my school homework, when my practices and games are, and other random extracurricular activities,” she said. “I have to be disciplined in everything to make sure I don’t fall out of balance in my life.
“It means lots of homework on the bus. Coach Kelli (Fitzpatrick) is very good about letting us have a quiet section, if we need to do homework, and most of the time I’m there. I really have to do homework whenever I can.”
Fitzpatrick coached Preston in middle school, and on the varsity the past three years. She describes Preston as a humble leader whose character far surpasses her athletic ability.
“Her heart is more about how to build up the people around her,” Fitzpatrick said. “She’s always giving 110 percent, she’s very coachable, she’s always listening.
“Whatever job I give her, whether it’s how to lead the team, take care of team-bonding stuff, you name it, she’s there to say, ‘OK coach, I’ll do it.’”
Saturday’s assignment was helping the Eagles sweep the competitive triangular featuring three of the state’s premier 3A teams. A middle blocker, Preston combined for 18 kills and 10 blocks as SC topped Cascade Christian 10-25, 25-17, 25-20, 25-19, and Salem Academy 25-15, 25-15, 25-19.
The wins improved the Eagles to 15-3 overall and moved them from fifth to third in the 3A power rankings. They moved to 16-3 and 12-0 in the West Valley League by defeating Amity on Monday, when Preston had 12 kills and three blocks.
Preston will graduate SC with 11 varsity letters: four each in volleyball and track, and three in basketball. She holds a relay and two individual school records in track, and captured 3A state titles in the 400 meters in 2015 and 2016, and the triple jump in 2017.
She credits former SC volleyball standout Victoria Schroeder for taking an intimidated freshman under her wing in 2014 during Preston’s first season as a varsity player.
“Victoria helped me through it,” Preston recalled. “She was a senior — they had won state the past two years — but she told me, ‘There are no grades on the court. Everyone is equal, you earn the right to be here.’
“In school and in life, she was always there for me. She’s like a big sister and that’s what helped me.”
Preston said she can’t choose which sport is her favorite, because each one has something special to make it unique.
“I’m probably the best in track,” she said. “It’s fun to play an individual sport, all the work I put in, I get something out of it. So, if I’m lazy one day, it’s going to show up in my meets.
“Volleyball and basketball have the team aspect. Volleyball is fun, and loud. Basketball is very mental,” and requires constant concentration. “I like them all, for different reasons.”
Preston will attend Biola University in Los Angeles and compete as a pentathlete and heptathlete in track. She said it fits her perfectly because she’s good at a lot of events, but not great enough to concentrate on one exclusively.
“God gave me this athletic ability and I really want to honor him in all of my ability,” she said. “That helps me get going every single day.”