Kierra Reichert left many lasting impressions in the Methow Valley community — participating in school and community activities, serving up coffee at Katie’s Pony Expresso in Winthrop, working for the U.S. Forest Service, volunteering for several local youth programs. She also was a multi-sport athlete who threw herself wholeheartedly into whatever challenge she took on.
Kierra, a 2022 graduate of Liberty Bell High School, died in a car accident on July 18. She is remembered affectionately by her coaches and teammates.
The Reichert family — father Joe Reichert, mother Nancy Juergens, Kierra and younger brother Raiff — arrived from Alaska in 2010 after scoping out the Methow Valley to make sure it was the place to raise their children. That inspection included consideration of the opportunities for first-grader Kierra to nurture her intense interest in horses.
Kierra was enrolled in the Methow Valley Community School where she and fellow student Sydney Schuler met and became instant friends, horses being the common interest.
They started as young children working with Annie Budiselich at Methow Valley Riding Unlimited (MVRU), eventually graduating to the Bear Creek Riding program.
Budiselich, MVRU’s Program Director, said that she originally met the Reicherts before they made their move to the Methow. Annie B, as the locals know her, said that Kierra was definitely a “horsey girl.”
“The family came to see me, before they moved to the valley from Talkeetna, to see if there was a chance she could satisfy her horse cravings,” Budiselich said.
Kierra began riding lessons not long after the move and, according to Budiselich. “She went on to be a very accomplished horsewoman, riding on our competitive team for a few years and focusing on dressage and jumping,” she said.
Budiselich said that Kierra volunteered to help give lessons and work at camps at the MVRU Riding Center. She continued to help at MVRU through high school.
Former Liberty Bell volleyball coach Christine Scott said that Kierra also took a shot at basketball. She said that Kierra and teammate Caitlyn Cooley, who was a passenger injured in accident in which Kierra died, would work at their basketball skills. “The countless hours spent with both these young girls in the gym I’ll forever miss,” Scott said.
But basketball didn’t last long for Kierra as Old Man Winter called her outdoors and she went skiing, both downhill and Nordic.
Kierra joined the Loup Loup downhill skiing program, skiing throughout her later elementary and junior high years. Eventually, she grew out of the local program. With her dad/coach Joe, she joined the intercollegiate circuit where she competed in races against high school and college club teams from across the region.
While yet in junior high school in 2015, Kierra decided to enroll in the Methow Valley Nordic program and try the skinny skis. She was more interested in learning how to cross country ski than in competing in Nordic race events, according to former Program Director and coach Leslie Hall.
The non-competitive track, also known as Team Lynx, was coached by Beth DiDomenico and Heide Anderson. DiDomenico said that Kierra was one who wanted to learn how to ski, and improve her skills, but didn’t want to compete.
“She could compete if she wanted to,” said DiDomenico. “She was that good and totally athletically capable. With Nordic skiing, though, she was always one of our better skiers and a good mentor for the younger kids. She was more into the relationships she would build and enjoyed laughing and playing, for sure. Very enjoyable to coach.”
Kierra’s cross country running experience included parts of her junior high school and high school days at Liberty Bell. She ran for the Mountain Lions in 2018, 2019 and 2021, missing the COVID 2020 season, which had been deferred to the spring of 2021 by the WIAA and state of Washington.
Head cross country Coach Erik Brooks reflected the thoughts of so many in the local sports community. “Losing Kierra is a hard and heart-wrenching thing, and especially so in a small community like this when you have so many opportunities as a coach and community member to see the kids in so many different capacities,” he said.
Assistant Coach Sarah Brooks, who handled the girls’ program at the time, said Kierra was not fond of racing, “but she found joy in running and she sure seemed to love being on the team. She supported her teammates and she genuinely celebrated whenever anyone had a good day. She could always reduce the stress levels with an easy smile and laugh. She was honest about what she could give and what she needed.”
Erik Brooks recalled a trip to Bridgeport in 2018, a season that ended with the third of three straight state championships for the Mountain Lion girls. He had given the varsity girls the Tuesday meet off after winning the Leavenworth Invite on the previous Saturday and prepping for the league championships on the following Friday. So three freshmen — Kierra, Ayeanna Ruprecht and Anja Sorensen — were promoted to varsity that day.
“It might have been the one race that Kierra did that year,” said Brooks, “but as nervous or unsure as she might have been about the racing it was a low-key meet and we were proud of her for toeing the line.”
“The girls’ team always does a certain cheer to start their races,” Brooks continued. “A big group of them locked arm-in-arm in a circle, jumping up and down and getting progressively louder. Because we’d only taken three girls to this meet, I joined them for the cheer. We all felt silly and a little self-conscious, just the four of us jumping up and down and screaming like a bigger group, but it was fun and silly and freeing and all of those things that sports and teams can be. Kierra knew all of the words. She led the cheer … and then she got out there on the course and cruised it like a veteran!”
For the record, Kierra ran perhaps the best race of her career, placing 7th in a 41-racer field.
When skiing up hills and down hills wasn’t enough to do in the winter, Kierra decided to don skates and pick up a stick at the Winthrop Rink, joining the Winthrop Girls Hockey program when she was a junior in high school. Hockey coach Katie Leuthauser was effusive: “Oh yeah. She really got into the hockey thing. She was good, too.”
Kierra played hockey her junior and senior years of high school for the local amateur girls’ hockey team, coached by Leuthauser.
“It’s so brave to start a new sport at that age,” said Leuthauser. “Let alone one where you are navigating the moving parts of all the gear, the stick, chasing a puck, and doing it in skates.”
“It was so much fun watching her play,” Leuthauser added. “She didn’t hold anything back. She was always smiling, laughing, and cheering on her teammates. It was infectious, you just couldn’t help but be filled with joy watching her have so much fun on the ice with her friends.”