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At a time in life when the goal of most peers is simply to fit in with the crowd, Butte Falls teenager Raleigh Weaver has no problems plotting her own course.
Although she claims to be shy, Weaver carries a confidence well beyond her 13 years and a maturity that's enabling her to do things beyond the norm these days in Logger country.
"She's a good kid," said Butte Falls girls basketball coach Kevin Kirkpatrick. "I think she's really going to be something."
Several things set Weaver apart from the masses, and just as many fine qualities bring her back into the fold.
Desiring more of an academic challenge and possessing the kind of intellect to make it happen, Weaver opted to forego her eighth grade year and has instead jumped up in class status to ninth grade this year.
She has been part of the Butte Falls school system in the past but is currently being homeschooled in hopes of one day becoming a clothing designer.
To maintain her relationships with friends, Weaver is a freshman starter on the varsity girls basketball team and creating quite a stir thus far for the Loggers, who are 7-4 overall and 3-1 in the Mountain Valley League heading into today's home game against Rogue Valley Adventist.
All of this is done wearing a skirt and long sleeves to accommodate her religious beliefs as an Apostolic Pentecostal.
"She's a sweetheart, too, so she just fits right in with everyone," said Kirkpatrick. "She's the tallest on the team but she's still the little sister to everyone."
At nearly 5-foot-11, Weaver recently was inserted into the starting lineup after teammate Brandi O'Keefe suffered a broken nose and has really taken flight. She's averaging about 12 rebounds and six points to provide a nice complement to seniors Tamika Funk and Joli Hobbs.
"I never really thought of myself starting this year but after an injury on the team I was put in and I like it, it's really been fun," Weaver said during a break in Monday's practice. "Basketball's my favorite sport so it's been pretty exciting to me."
The wheels for any of this to be happening were set in motion well before the season when the Weaver family decided it would be best for Raleigh to skip a grade.
"My sister (Scarlet) did it a couple years ago and I thought it would be a good idea to skip a grade and be done with high school as soon as I can," said Weaver, who turns 14 on Feb. 4. "It really wasn't that tough of a decision, my whole family has done it and my education level was just higher than some of the others."
The decision to go the homeschool route was made so that Weaver could be appropriately challenged by not only the typical study subjects but others that more fit her personality and career objectives.
"I like being able to work on more interesting things and Butte Falls didn't offer that many classes for me so that's definitely a plus to being homeschooled," she said. "It's definitely more challenging than being in eighth grade right now. Being a freshman is a lot harder."
Her dad Dan helps provide some of the educational stability but Weaver said she also works with an outside teacher on Mondays who gives assignments that must be completed and turned in when they meet on the following Monday. Her studies include sewing and baking.
"Clothing design is just my favorite thing," said Weaver. "I just like being able to get ideas online and then I put my own touch in everything I make."
Some of those extra touches are a necessity given her religion, which requires her to be modestly attired at all times. Working with her mom Charlotte, Weaver has turned regular jeans and shorts into skirts and embraced the challenge of doing likewise with the Loggers' home and away basketball shorts. She wears Under Armour long-sleeve shirts beneath her jersey to comply with religious beliefs.
While her age and non-traditional path in high school might set her apart as an outsider in other places, Kirkpatrick said there's really no such thing in Butte Falls.
"At Butte Falls, they're not quite into clicks like they are in schools down there (in the Medford area)," he said. "There's so few kids, there's really no choice but to hang out with the ones who are a little bit older or younger. Butte Falls is pretty unique that way, they do pretty good with the underclassmen and older ones getting along."
Weaver most definitely agrees.
"It's really fun just being able to learn from all the older kids," she said. "They treat me like everyone else and I act just like all of them so it's pretty even. Everybody completely accepts me."
Then again, Kirkpatrick said that's not really difficult to do when it comes to someone like Weaver, whom he also coached in softball last spring as a promising pitcher and first baseman.
"She can make anybody smile," he said. "When they're all down on themselves, she can make them smile."
Sometimes by choice, sometimes not. After all, Weaver is only 13.
"She's really smart "… really smart," said Kirkpatrick. "The whole family (older siblings Quinton, who stands 6-7 and the 5-7 Scarlet) is really smart, but you can still see that she's young at times. She does pretty good but she can still be goofy and silly at practice. But when she's out on the court, she's pretty darn mature."
"She's got a little bit to go as a player but a lot of that is all age and experience," added the coach.
Weaver counts herself as just one of the gang.
"I just see myself like everyone else," she said. "I don't really put myself apart from them. I'm definitely goofy sometimes and it's usually me and (senior) Joli Hobbs who are the team clowns, but mostly I'm just going to try as hard as I can every time I'm out there and hope for the best."
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry