(Photo by David Jenkins)
DEXTER -- Even as a kid, Amanda Dooley was more interested in sports than other typical little girl activities.
The Dexter native seemed willing to play any sport, just as long as a ball was involved.
"Playing sports is all I've ever done," said Dooley. "It's what I'm used to."
It should come as no surprise that, as she has grown and matured, she has developed into quite an athlete -- the kind of athlete that has the capabilities of dominating whatever sport she is focused on at that moment.
This past school year, Dooley focused on three sports and she passed all three tests -- tennis, basketball and softball -- with flying colors, making her our 2006-2007 Standard Democrat Female Athlete of the Year.
The 17-year-old junior made it further in the state singles tennis tournament than any other Dexter Lady Bearcat before her, she was an all-conference and all-region basketball player and she has set state records in softball.
Did we mention that she is an academic wizard as well? She scored a 31 on her latest ACT test, improving from a 28 her first time, and she's ranked No. 1 in her class according to former Dexter athletic director Gavin Miller.
Is there anything Dooley can't do?
Miller doesn't think so.
"She's just naturally gifted," said Miller. "You have some girls that really have to work hard to become a good athlete in a specific sport. But it all comes so natural to her -- she's one of the most naturally gifted athletes I've ever seen. She's so smart in those sports and when you add that to her physical ability, she becomes a very dangerous athlete."
As an athlete, Dooley looks the part before she even picks up a ball. Standing 5-foot-11, she is long-limbed but she has muscle-tone as well.
When she serves in tennis, her long, powerful swing doesn't look much different than, say, Maria Sharapova.
"I think she's probably as good in tennis as she is at anything else," said Miller. "She loves the game. She's got those long legs and long arms and she's strong and fast."
Dooley likes the individuality of tennis.
"I like tennis the most, because it's all me," said Dooley. "If I lose it's my fault. If I win, it's all on me. If I play anything in college, I'll play tennis. But I don't know if I'll go that way."
Dooley was dominant on the tennis court last fall, but fell short in the Class 1, District 1 championship match to Sikeston's Jenni DeWitt.
Dooley jumped ahead in the match 6-0 in the first set, but she couldn't keep the momentum going, falling 3-6, 1-6 in the second and third sets.
Still though, Dooley was headed for the state tennis tournament with her performance.
There, according to Miller, she became the first Dexter girl to win a first round match, defeating Heather Miner from St. Joseph-Lafayette, 7-6 (4), 6-4.
But Dooley's quest for a state medal ended as she lost her next two matches.
Dooley is determined to improve on her performance this fall, diligently working on her game this summer.
"I'd like to get in the top four in the state this year," said Dooley.
Dooley followed up her tennis season with a solid year on the basketball hardwood, leading Dexter to a 21-6 season before falling in the district semifinals to eventual champion Notre Dame.
Dooley, who became a go-to player her junior season, used her size and athleticism to score 13 points per game and five rebounds per game.
Dooley, who said her favorite sports moment was winning the Lady Bearcats' first-ever district championship in basketball when she was a freshman on the team, would like to hang another banner before she graduates next spring.
"It was a good year, but I would have liked to have done better," said Dooley. "I'm kind of disappointed in basketball that we didn't make it through districts. I think we can get to the final four if we work hard this upcoming season. We have a new coach, so it'll be totally different."
While the season didn't end favorably, Miller said Dooley embraced a leadership role for his young team.
"She stepped up and really took charge in some big games for us," said Miller, who just resigned as the girls basketball coach to take a job as an assistant boys basketball coach at Sedalia Smith-Cotton HIgh School . "She'd step up in the huddle and say, 'get me the ball. I'm going to score. Find a way to get me the ball, coach.' She would just step up and have a great game. I foresee her doing that a lot more this upcoming year."
Dooley said she improved her game over the years playing with older boys.
"I grew up playing with my brother Willie and Josh and Caleb Miller," said Dooley. "If I couldn't do anything, then I had to sit at home. I'd say playing with older boys made me the athlete I am today. They were all I had to play with."
To wrap up her junior season, Dooley posted incredible stats on the softball field.
She batted .667 with seven home runs. The batting average is among the top 10 ever in Missouri state history, just a little bit below...herself.
She set a state record as a sophomore with a phenomenal .714 batting average.
Dooley says not even she knows how she mashes the softball with such regularity.
"My dad used to coach Babe Ruth boys baseball teams and I'd go out and watch them hit," said Dooley. "It just came natural to me. I don't know how to explain it.
"I've never been able to not go out and do my best. That's just something my mom and dad have always told me to do. I always give it my all."
And that advice has stuck, not only on the athletic fields, but in the classroom as well.
Following her senior year, she said she aspires to be a neurologist. At the moment, she's unsure of what college she'll attend.
In addition to her athletic and academic skills, Miller gave one parting comment about Dooley's character.
"If you've got a single boy and you're a parent, that's the girl that you want your boy to date," said Miller. "She's a very modest person. I'm going to miss her, not only as an athlete on my team, but just as a human being. She's a good person. She's just fun to be around."