BENTON -- The Essner legacy of excellence in athletics continues with the selection of Kelly Essner as the 2005 Standard Democrat Female Athlete of the Year.
Kelly follows in the footsteps of sisters Marissa, who garnered the same honor in both 1999 and 2000, and Dana, a Standard Democrat Basketball Dream Team selection in 2003.
"That's great," said Kelly. "We always played together a lot when we were younger."
Kelly, a four-year starter in both softball and basketball at Kelly High School, played a pivotal role in leading the Lady Hawks to a Class 2 state softball championship and to the state sectional round in basketball this past year.
conference, all-region and all-state in softball and first team all-conference and all-region in basketball.
As the regular shortstop, Kelly sparkled on the defensive side, committing zero errors throughout the entire season.
Career-wise, she posted a .321 batting average, stole 49 bases and fielded her position at a .981 percentage.
Kelly had equally stellar career numbers as a pitcher for the Lady Hawks with 19 wins against only three losses, including six shutouts, and a stingy ERA of 0.696.
"She was a leader, in her own way, all four years. The girls looked up to her because of her ability, accomplishment and work ethic. She was never one to slack off. Whatever I asked her to do, she did it without complaining."
Essner, a 5-7 point guard, concluded her Kelly basketball career as the No. 3 all-time scorer. She was voted to the Standard Democrat Dream Team and named the Southeast Missourian Female Player of the Year.
In the postseason, she was chosen to participate in the BA Sports All-Star Game, which features the area's top high school athletes. She won the 3-
point shootout at that competition.
Said Kelly basketball coach Rod McQuerter, "It's been a joy to coach Kelly Essner. She's a tremendous athlete, but she's an even better person. She had a positive attitude everyday, played hard and played for the team. I'm very proud of her, the year she's had and everything she's done for the Kelly Lady Hawks basketball program. I was blessed to be a part of it for four years."
In spite of all the recognition and success she has enjoyed in a decorated sports career, Kelly's humility and down-to-earth attitude is even more impressive.
"I never really thought about individual honors," she said. "It was all about how we came out at the end of the year, as a team. I don't even remember much of the games, just the fun times in the locker room and the memories of my teammates."
Kelly recently signed to play softball at Jefferson Community College at Hillsboro.
Why softball over basketball?
"Well, I was thinking about basketball," she said, "but softball seemed to come more naturally to me. I thought about trying both, but I didn't want to get too much going and not do well in school. I figured it would be kind of hard to do both."
Sports, however, is not the be-all, end-all for Kelly, the daughter of Tom and Linda Essner of New Hamburg.
She was a four-year honors student at Kelly, active in Family Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA), Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) and the student council (STUCCO).
Asked what life lessons sport may have taught her, Kelly responded, "Never worry about yourself. Always worry about the team and how the team does. I don't really care how I do, I just want the team to do well."
From both a team and individual perspective, it's crystal clear that Kelly Essner has done extremely well.