Three-sport all star

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RYLEY KEHR enjoyed a reward-filled athletic career with the Columbia Falls Wildkats, earning Class A all-state or all-conference honors in three sports — volleyball, basketball and softball. She has signed with Montana State University Northern for basketball. (Jeremy Weber/Hungry Horse News)

By KATIE BROWN

The Daily Inter Lake

Between his two daughters playing multiple sports and being a coach himself, Dave Kehr has seen just about everything.

But his favorite memory was his daughters, Ryley and Peyton, on the basketball court together in 2016 when the Columbia Falls Wildkats won the Class A state championship.

Ryley was a sophomore then, and sister Peyton a senior.

“That’s my best memory, of any sport that I have is the state championship game with both of them on the court,” Dave said.

He added that watching Ryley score a home run on her senior night in softball and coaching both of his daughters on the softball team are up there for him as well.

Peyton, two years older than Ryley, plays basketball for Montana State University Northern. That’s also where Ryley is headed this fall after a stellar career as a multi-sport student athlete for the Wildkats. She plans to major in education with a minor in business and aspires to one day be an athletic director.

She earned first-team all-state honors as a junior in softball, was a two-time all-state pick in volleyball and also helped the Wildkats win back-to-back state championships during her career.

This year she was a first team all-state pick for basketball and last year she was a second-team selection.

The Wildkats placed third at the state tournament this year. While down two points to Laurel in the third place game, Ryley hit the tying basket with 6 seconds left and the Wildkats won in overtime after Kehr sank a free throw with just a few seconds remaining.

Her ability to come up big when the team needed it wasn’t just something Ryley saved for the state tournament, though.

“Anytime we were in a close game and needed a basket she seemed to be the one that’d come through for us and hit a big basket, made a big play or got a big steal or whatever we needed, she just seemed to come up with that at the right time,” Columbia Falls basketball coach Cary Finberg said.

Ryley, 18, was a four-year starter in softball and a three-year starter in volleyball and basketball. And a good student, too, graduating this year with a 3.6 grade point average. In her spare time, she also volunteered for the Special Olympics.

As a freshman, she was the first player off the bench for Finberg. In the title game that year, Ryley was able to play some meaningful minutes and play a role in the victory.

“With her getting into that game and contributing some to that game, I think it was a turning point for her,” Dave said.

Finberg called Ryley one of the most consistent players he’s ever had during his 23 years of coaching basketball.

“She just pretty much does everything,” Finberg said. “We put a lot of responsibility on her shoulders and she took every responsibility we threw at her and she thrived with it.”

This season, Ryley averaged 15.4 points, seven rebounds, 3.8 assists and 4.3 steals per game and shot 55 percent from the field and 30 percent from the 3-point line. Her 16 steals in one game tied a Montana high school state record.

Though Ryley has excelled in multiple sports, it became evident her freshman year that basketball was the sport she loved most. And after watching her sister Peyton transition to college hoops, Ryley was inspired to do the same.

Ryley has always been an athlete. Name a sport and she’s probably tried it at least once.

“We started off when we were younger playing soccer and then softball and then volleyball, even did cross country for a year and then we tried track and field for a year,” she said. “We’ve done a lot of stuff.”

Even as a small child, her mother Robyn recalls, if there was an activity, Ryley wanted to be involved in it.

“Anything we could play, they enjoyed,” Robyn said. “When you got a ball out, they liked it. Whatever it was we were playing they liked.”

It isn’t an exaggeration to say that athletics is truly a family affair for the Kehrs. Robyn is a former basketball player and coach and Dave a former baseball player and current Columbia Falls High School softball coach. Both are physical education teachers, Robyn at Ruder Elementary and Dave at Columbia Falls Junior High.

Robyn, an accomplished athlete in her own right, is thrilled both of her daughters have basketball as their chosen sport. Dave said he was sure volleyball would end up being Ryley’s sport.

“I think honestly he (Dave) was thinking he’d get a softball player out of one of us but neither of us looked into that,” Ryley joked.

In between her summer job cleaning houses and vacation rentals with Peyton, the two hike and bike and work out together each morning. Each of them have summer workouts given to them by the MSU-Northern coach Chris Mouat.

“We’ve done pretty much everything together,” Ryley said.

Now they’ll get to share the college experience together, with a little sisterly ribbing, of course.

“There’s a lot of things I have to learn,” Ryley said. ”She makes fun of me for it sometimes.”

As the only freshman recruited by MSU-Northern, it’s possible Ryley may redshirt her first season, but that depends on how she plays the first couple of months. Ryley heads to Havre on Aug. 16th, ahead of classes that begin after Labor Day.

Though she played point guard and wing for Finberg, he said she’s a player that could step into any role she’s asked to play.

“I think she does so many things well, that when you have a player that can do that, usually coaches find a spot for a kid like that,” Finberg said. “A lot of times you might have one skill that a coach needs for you to be a role player or whatever but she’s a kid that you can put in multiple positions and do multiple things. I’ve had a few on the boys side that checked a lot of boxes like that but I don’t know if I’ve had a player that does as many things as well as she has and that’s kind of what’s special about her.” 

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