Three-sport stars claim Bonner Springs’ top prize
Chase Crouch, Christian McDonald named BSHS athletes of the year
Most years, the Bonner Springs High School athletes of the year share several traits.
This year, that's not the case.
Outside of the extreme competitiveness that Chase Crouch and Christian McDonald both exhibited throughout their careers, the two Jim Finley Award winners actually shared very few athletic characteristics.
For starters, the reason each won the award differed greatly. Crouch was tabbed the school's best female athlete for her uncanny ability to do all the little things in each sport she played.
Whether it was volleyball, basketball or softball, Crouch did whatever she was asked to do and often times bent over backwards to avoid the spotlight.
"That's just Chase," said Bonner Springs girls basketball coach Garold Baker. "She made sacrifices for the team in every sport she played. That's just the kind of kid she is."
McDonald, on the other hand, did not always steer clear of the spotlight, but only half of that was his fault.
The other half came because of the incredible expectations coaches and teammates had for the imposing senior.
"I put a lot of pressure on him during football," BSHS football coach Lew Kasselman said. "I always felt he could dominate any game he played in because he had all the physical tools to do so. It didn't always work out that way, but Christian always gave it his best effort and never backed down from a challenge."
Kasselman's fondest memory of McDonald was a run he had against Bishop Ward, in which he ran over four Ward defenders on his way to the end zone, refusing to go down no matter what.
"That's the way I thought he should run on every down," Kasselman said.
The paths these two took to greatness also followed different tracks.
Crouch saw varsity playing time in two of her three sports as early as her freshman season.
In softball -- likely her best sport -- she quickly became a key part of the Bravettes' program, starting for four years and playing nearly every position on the diamond.
In basketball, she didn't earn a regular spot in the starting rotation until her junior year, but found herself inserted into the game at key moments throughout her freshman and sophomore seasons.
Baker recalled a time during the Basehor-Linwood basketball tournament when Crouch entered the game as a freshman and buried three straight three-pointers.
"She was never intimidated in any sport," Baker said. "She was always ready to play and always worked her butt off. She didn't do a lot as far as the stats go, and she didn't do a lot as far as being fancy, but she did a heck of a lot to make every team she played on better. She's very deserving of an award like this."
For Crouch, winning the award -- like most things she did -- was about more than just her.
"Both of my older sisters deserved this award, too," she said humbly. "And it's nice that one of us Crouch girls finally got it. It's a great honor for me, but it's also a great honor for my parents."
For McDonald, the best part about winning the award also had to do with family. His uncle, Renee, won the award in 1972, and McDonald said leaving his name up there with his uncle was quite an honor.
"Being up there on that stage before they announced it, my heart was pumping," McDonald said. "And then when I heard my name, I was just shocked. It was probably one of my happiest moments ever and definitely one of my greatest achievements."
In addition to excelling as a running back and linebacker in football, McDonald was a key contributor on the league championship basketball team and a monster javelin thrower in track.
He owned three of the five best javelin throws in Class 4A this season, and finished third at state.
While the paths and styles of these athletes may have differed tremendously, both always demonstrated great pride in representing Bonner Springs High School and their teammates.
Both also demonstrated sincere joy in being named this year's athletes of the year, and as hard as it was for some to believe, both were sometimes left speechless when asked about the award.
"It's indescribable, really," Crouch said. "It's a great honor."