Aztec High Schoo’s Tyra Gabehart dribbles the ball in a game against Farmington High School on Thursday, Oct. 18, 2012.
Aztec High Schoo's Tyra Gabehart dribbles the ball in a game against Farmington High School on Thursday, Oct. 18, 2012. (Daily Times file photo)
AZTEC — For the first time in five years, Aztec High School will see one of its girls' soccer players play in college.

Tyra Gabehart signed with Division II Fort Lewis College in Durango on Friday. The first-team all-state player and District 1-4A co-player of the year is excited to extend her playing career with a team that was ranked as high as No. 2 in the nation during the 2012 season.

“Fort Lewis has a really amazing team. It will be really cool to play with players that are thinking ahead of me,” Gabehart said. “I am hoping by my junior or senior year I am up there with them, but I know I have a long way to go.”

Fort Lewis head coach Damian Clarke is happy to add some local talent to the team.

“Tyra is a very strong and versatile athlete, and has been a varsity soccer player since eighth grade at Aztec High School,” Clarke said in a prepared statement. “She had a very successful career, and capped her senior season off with eight goals and seven assists from a center back position.”

Along with her father Gerald, who has helped coach soccer, Aztec head coach Stephen Parks has been a part of Gabehart's playing career since she was at the youth level.

“She has been playing since she was five years old. This is an extremely exciting opportunity for her to go to a great program,” Parks said. “It is exciting to have her local so we can go watch her play. The girls on our team can still watch her her play. She deserves this opportunity, and I have no doubt she can do it.”

Gabehart is appreciative of the time Parks put in to help her reach this stage.

“It has been really cool going through the steps with Parks. He has been my coach since forever. It is cool succeeding with him beside me because he has made me the player I am,” she said.

Gabehart wasn't even considering playing soccer in college. She planned on attending the University of New Mexico for academics only but started regretting not pursuing collegiate soccer options over the winter.

“Plans changed. As soon as we started talking to Fort Lewis, their coach was willing to let me come practice. I was pretty much sold the first practice,” Gabehart said. “It was actually my mom's idea for me to play college soccer. She could tell I was missing it. It is great to have my family's support. Now that I am going to Fort Lewis and it is close, they will be able to support me even more. My sister, Shelby, is going to go there, too, so we will be living in the same place. I can't imagine doing it without my family because I never have and now, hopefully, I will never have to.
Aztec s Tyra Gabehart, second from left, poses for a photo at Aztec High School on Friday. She is surrounded from left to right by her sister Shelby,
Aztec s Tyra Gabehart, second from left, poses for a photo at Aztec High School on Friday. She is surrounded from left to right by her sister Shelby, mother Lynn and father Gerald. In back from left to right is Aztec head coach Stephen Parks and assistant coach Christian McDonald. (The Daily Times)


The Skyhawks are also excited to add the Gabehart's to their family.

“We believe (Gabehart) has a high ceiling based on athletic ability and attitude. She wants to learn to be a better player, and at this level this is the attitude it takes to be successful,” Clarke said. “Tyra is an excellent student and has wonderfully supportive family, one that we welcome to Fort Lewis College.”

Gabehart is a three-sport athlete who was named to the North/South All-Star game in basketball. She also participates as an athletic trainer. She hopes to get into the athletic training program at Fort Lewis, and her long-term goal is to attend a physician assistant program after graduating Fort Lewis.

Parks hopes to see more Lady Tigers sign with colleges in coming years and hopes Gabehart's signing can open doors for girls across the Four Corners.

“You hope it gives us some exposure. Maybe Fort Lewis or other teams will pay attention to what we have in the Four Corners and, hopefully, our team because we have some really good talent,” he said.

John Livingston can be reached at jlivingston@daily-times.com; 505-564-4648. Follow him on Twitter @jlivi2.