From Pee-Wee to Divison One

Local Renton seniors ready to attend university and play soccer

From Pee-Wee soccer rivals to roommates — two seniors are looking forward to continuing their soccer careers together at the University of Wyoming.

Rae Gerking, Hazen High School, and Nikayla Copenhaver, Liberty High School, both committed to the school for the Division One Cowgirls soccer team during the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) National Letter of Intent Day, Nov. 13.

The girls started playing recreation center soccer in Renton around age six. On separate teams, they both remember each other as the best to play against.

“I just remember knowing her team was good and my team was good. It was always the fun game,” Gerking said. “Like, ‘Oh, we get to play Nikki’s team.’”

The two then attended different schools but were brought closer by soccer. They started to play at the same leagues together more and more, both eventually ending up at Washington Premier Football Club. In high school, their friend groups have also had some crossover.

When asked about their soccer positions, in sync they said they’re “opposites.” Gerking is a center defender and Copenhaver is a center forward. Both have kept the fun rivalry from their childhood too, often playing one-on-one during downtime at practices.

“We make each other better,” Gerking said.

Courtesy of Lynn Gerking. Rae Gerking and Nikayla Copenhaver have been friends since playing soccer against each other at six years old. Now they will play together and be roommates at University of Wyoming.

Courtesy of Lynn Gerking. Rae Gerking and Nikayla Copenhaver have been friends since playing soccer against each other at six years old. Now they will play together and be roommates at University of Wyoming.

Courtesy of Lynn Gerking. Rae Gerking and Nikayla Copenhaver have been friends since playing soccer against each other at six years old. Now they will play together and be roommates at University of Wyoming.

Courtesy of Lynn Gerking. Rae Gerking and Nikayla Copenhaver have been friends since playing soccer against each other at six years old. Now they will play together and be roommates at University of Wyoming.

Both athletes are four-time soccer varsity letter winners. Copenhaver has been All-State three times, Most Valuable Player, team captain during her junior year and helping her team win back-to-back 2A State titles. She also helped her club team get to the Elite Clubs National League (ECNL) playoffs. Gerking is team captain at Hazen this year, three-time First Team all-league and helped the club team go two northwest conference championships.

Highlander soccer coach, Bre Vandenbos, spoke at the letter of intent signing at Hazen High School about Gerking.

“I’ve known Rae for four years and she likes to pretend she’s not inspirational,” Vandenbos said. “She’s been an outstanding center defender. She’s going to do very well as a Cowgirl.”

When they were off the field growing up, the girls often talked about the books they were reading. Both have confessed to being the kids that always had a book in their hand, bonding over “Hunger Games” and “The Mortal Instruments.” They’re also Academic All-conference and honor roll students.

Both wanted to play soccer in university, with Division One as a high achievement for women athletes in the sport. Gerking had decided on University of Wyoming early, around her sophomore year after visiting it and other schools. Copenhaver was interested in junior year after inviting them to see her play in Arizona. Both went to the university’s Identification (ID) camp between junior and senior year and loved the school.

Gerking and Copenhaver like the small-town vibe of the school’s location, Laramie, Wyoming, and the way the state rallies around the university’s sports teams. They also get soccer attention as the only soccer team at Wyoming. Copenhaver is looking forward to exploring a culture and community that’s so different from the Seattle area. And Gerking is looking forward to playing against unfamiliar faces and she gets the ease of designing her dorm with Copenhaver.

“It makes leaving a lot easier,” Copenhaver said. “It’s kind of crazy, we’re going to live most of our young adult lives together.”

Other athletes sign-up for future college teams

Photo by Haley Ausbun. Left to right: Eric Bunnell, Rae Gerking and Ethan Dang. These Hazen High School students signed on to be college athletes on Nov. 13 at a ceremony at Hazen High School.

Photo by Haley Ausbun. Left to right: Eric Bunnell, Rae Gerking and Ethan Dang. These Hazen High School students signed on to be college athletes on Nov. 13 at a ceremony at Hazen High School.

Courtesy of Lynn Gerking. Left to right: Ethan Dang, Rae Gerking and Eric Bunnell. These Hazen High School students signed on to be college athletes on Nov. 13 at a ceremony at Hazen High School.

Courtesy of Lynn Gerking. Left to right: Ethan Dang, Rae Gerking and Eric Bunnell. These Hazen High School students signed on to be college athletes on Nov. 13 at a ceremony at Hazen High School.

Congratulations to the other Hazen students who signed letters of intent on Nov. 13.

Ethan Dang, a swimmer with Bellevue Club Swim Team, signed to Stanford University for the swim team for breaststroke and Individual Medley (IM). Dang was on the U.S. Youth Olympic Team and has two upcoming Olympic qualifying trials, for 100 and 200-meter breaststroke. He is the fastest 200-meter breaststroke swimmer of the nation’s high school class of 2020.

Eric Bunnell will be attending Western Washington University and playing on the men’s soccer team as a forward. Last season Bunnell led North Puget Sound League (NPSL) Cascade in boy’s soccer scoring, assists and total points. He was also a Renton Reporter Male Athlete of the Week.


Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@rentonreporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.rentonreporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 300 words or less.

Photo by Haley Ausbun. Left to right: Eric Bunnell, Rae Gerking and Ethan Dang. These Hazen High School students signed on to be college athletes on Nov. 13 at a ceremony at Hazen High School.

Photo by Haley Ausbun. Left to right: Eric Bunnell, Rae Gerking and Ethan Dang. These Hazen High School students signed on to be college athletes on Nov. 13 at a ceremony at Hazen High School.

More in Sports

No-show season: WIAA announces cancellation of spring sports, activities

Due to the school closure extension, the cancellation includes all practices, competitions, tournaments and championships, WIAA says.

Emerald Downs still plans to have horse racing season in 2020

Horse training continues at Auburn racetrack

There’s still hope for spring sports, WIAA announces

Washington Interscholastic Activities Association making contingency plans for high school sports competitions after extension of stay home order.

State Qualifiers & Coaches (left to right):Assistant Coach Colton Maddy, Matt Haines (3rd), Dmytro Hayday (3rd), Head Coach Mike Pine, Jeffrey Myers (2nd), Treavor Atkins (2nd), Assistant Coach Deven Maddy. 
                                Photo by Vicki Maddy.
Lindbergh wrestlers qualify for state

Lindbergh High School competed in the Boys 2A Regionals tournament on Sat,… Continue reading

Hazen High School cheer team took third place during the coed competition at the WIAA State Central Cheerleading Tournament on Feb. 7, 2020. Photo courtesy of Brian Kaelin.
Renton, Hazen cheer earn spots at state tournament

Hazen and Renton High School cheer teams earned applause at the WIAA… Continue reading

The Hazen High School Boys Swim Team qualified for state during its meet on the weekend of Feb. 8, 2020. Photo courtesy of Head Coach Lynn Gerking.
Hazen boys swim qualifies for state

The Hazen Boys Swim and Dive team competed over the weekend in… Continue reading

The Lindbergh boys swim team took home the 2A SPSL championship title on Feb. 8, 2020. 
                                Photo courtesy of Kayoka Bushaw.
Lindbergh boys swim is the 2A SPSL champs

The Lindbergh High School boys swim team took home the title at… Continue reading

Photo courtesy of Coach Omar Parker. Liberty High School had a packed house in honor of Kobe Bryant and the Liberty High School basketball teams, Friday Jan. 31.
Liberty packs the house for Kobe

On Friday night, Jan. 31, the Liberty High School students rallied around… Continue reading

Renton schools change sports leagues

RSD moves from SPSL to KingCo

Lindbergh High School’s Riley Omonaka prepares for a round against a Renton High School wrestler during Lindbergh’s senior night on Thursday, Jan. 23, 2020. Photo submitted by Vicky Maddy.
Lindbergh girls wrestling takes on Renton

Three of Lindbergh’s female wrestlers competed during the school’s senior night, taking… Continue reading

Courtesy of Rashaad Powell. Renton High School Senior and Boys Basketball player Keandre Young.
Renton boys basketball to be featured on ESPN

All boys from state picked for All American Game from Renton High

Photo courtesy of Omar Parker. Liberty Boys Basketball team brought home a championship trophy at the Rancho Mirage Holiday Invitational in California. The team, part of the “Gear to the Max” division championship game, took the tournament title after winning all four games. The Patriots competed against California teams from the cities of Stevenson, Calipatria, and Rancho Mirage, and a Canyon Springs, Nevada team. Players Tyler Anderson and Josh Chung were named for the all-tournament team and senior captain Jeff Yamada was named tournament MVP. Coach Omar Parker said this was due in large part to his defensive efforts during the games. Before this, the team has also won 10 of its last 11 games, including seven games in a row. Once back from the California tournament, the team went on to win against Lake Washington and Bellevue in tough away games, Parker said.
Liberty basketball takes home championship

Liberty Boys Basketball team brought home a championship trophy at the Rancho… Continue reading