Plenty of locals loathe the Puget Sound region’s frequently wet, chilly weather. But it’s a slight inconvenience compared to the bitter cold of Alaska.
At least that’s how Caitlyn Rohrbach sees it.
After an outstanding prep basketball career, Rohrbach, a 2006 graduate of Lynnwood’s Meadowdale High School, ventured far north and west to play for the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
The 6-foot forward enjoyed a solid freshman collegiate season, starting 22 of 27 games for Alaska Fairbanks while averaging 10.6 points and 6.0 rebounds. But the shocking climate change and significant distance from her family were too much to deal with, she said.
As a result, Rohrbach has transferred to Seattle Pacific University, a move that SPU announced on July 17.
“Obviously, SPU is a great program. They’ve been at the top of our league the past couple years,” said Rohrbach, a versatile player who played every position from point guard to post at Meadowdale.
SPU and Alaska Fairbanks both compete in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference. GNAC rules require inner-conference transfers to sit out a season, so Rohrbach will red-shirt in 2007-2008. She will be eligible to play in the 2008-2009 season and will still have three years of eligibility.
Rohrbach will make the most of her transition year, SPU head women’s basketball coach Julie van Beek said.
“Caitlyn will really help our team next year,” van Beek said. “Even though she won’t be playing in games, she’s a very smart player and she’s the type of kid who will understand the importance of a red-shirt season.”
Rohrbach asked for her release from Alaska Fairbanks in April and has been in Washington since May 12. She’s glad she won’t have to endure another Alaska winter. In January, the sun rose at about 11 a.m. and set just four hours later, she said.
“It was definitely way different (in Alaska) than what I was used to down here (in Washington) — a difficult climate to get used to,” Rohrbach said. “I had some great experiences but I felt like I needed to be closer to home.”
The frigid, light-deprived environment at Alaska Fairbanks “was one of the main reasons that played into me leaving,” she added. “You don’t know what negative-46 degrees (Fahrenheit) feels like until you live in it.”
Rohrbach joins an SPU team that lost three seniors — two of them starters — to graduation. The Falcons finished 20-9 in 2006-07, won the conference championship and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Division II tournament.
Asked how she expects Rohrbach to eventually contribute on the court, van Beek said she values the Meadowdale alum’s versatility and unselfishness. Rohrbach will likely play a wing/forward position that allows her to face the basket and use her strong shooting ability, van Beek said.
Last week, Rohrbach shared her hoops expertise with dozens of youngsters at Meadowdale’s summer basketball camp. She volunteered as a coach at the daily four-hour sessions at Meadowdale High School.
In addition to being happy to be back home, Rohrbach is enjoying a chance to give back to the community that she said had a huge role in her development as a basketball player.
“I want to show the girls some skills and be a good role model,” said Rohrbach, who regularly participated in the youth camps when she was younger. “It’s fun being back now and kind of remembering when I was a camper. Now I get to return the favor.”
Mike Cane writes for The Herald in Everett.