by Alan Hoskins
Three athletes who took Kansas City Kansas Community College teams to unprecedented playoff depths are the Athletes of the Year for 2014.
Lucas Norton, who played a key role in the Blue Devil baseball team coming within one win of the NJCAA World Series, is the Male Athlete of the Year while Cassidy Harbert and Lacey Santiago were named co-Female Athlete of the Year recipients. Harbert helped the Lady Blue Devil basketball team go the farthest in tournament play in Coach Valerie Stambersky’s 14 years while Sanitago was a vital cog in the KCKCC softball team winning its first home playoff series.
In announcing the 2014 recipients, KCKCC Athletic Director Tony Tompkins said selections were made based not only athletic success but academics, community service, leadership and citizenship.
The 2014 recipients:
Lucas Norton – “Lucas being gone is like losing a member of the coaching staff,” said KCKCC baseball coach Steve Burleson. “He won the Mike Haen Hustle Award and would have been our MVP if we had one. A prototypical No. 9 hitter as a freshman, through concentrated hard work he raised his batting average about 150 points from last year and made himself an outstanding leadoff hitter as a sophomore.”
A centerfielder from Liberty, Mo., Norton led the Blue Devils in hitting with a .366 average after hitting .215 as a freshman. He also led in hits (82) and stolen bases (29) while driving in 29 runs from the leadoff position. After a 5-15 start, the Blue Devils finished 39-22 and reached the finals of the NJCAA super-regional tournament.
Carrying a 3.8 grade point average, Norton finished his final semester making all A’s. “Not only our team leader, Luke has led us in community service, academics and fund-raising,” said Burleson.
Cassidy Harbert – “Cassidy was a critical component to our team’s success this year,” said Stambersky. “Without her running the point for us, we would not have been 24-8. She started every game, scored for us, rebounded for us and got the ball to others so they could score. A leader who works hard every day in everything that we do on the court and in the classroom, she’s a 3.08 student.”
Earning honorable mention on the WBCA All-American team, Harbert finished fourth in the nation in assists with 197 and fifth in steals with 106. A freshman from Wichita Northwest, her 6.2 assist average led the Jayhawk Conference and she was third in steals (3.3) to earn selection to the EBA JUCO National Spring Showcase and nomination to the NJCAA All-Star Game.
Her community work included programs for Toys and Tots, the Ronald McDonald House, Community Blood Drive, Biddy Ball Clinic and the campus clean-up drive as well as fund-raising undertakings with Sporting KC, Kansas City Chiefs and NASCAR races along with on-campus involvement with security, concessions and a community car wash.
Lacey Santiago – “Almost everyone on campus knows Lacey because of her willingness to go out of the normal comfort zone for students by engaging in conversations with anyone on campus,” said KCKCC softball coach Kacy Tillery. “A great representative of our college and athletic department, it would be hard to find an office or professor who doesn’t know Lacey.”
An All-Region and two-time All-Jayhawk selection from Molokai, Hawaii, Santiago batted .464, drove in 23 runs and led in stolen bases with 14 on a Lady Blue Devil that swept Neosho in opening round playoff action and finished 32-15. An academic All-American with a 3.40 grade point average, Santiago was named to “Who’s Who in American Community Colleges” and twice to the Provost’s Honor Roll.
Her community service included reading to youngsters at the Child Care Center, volunteering for an admissions project with local high schools, cooking Thanksgiving dinner for a retirement home in Leavenworth, Community Blood Drive participant and work at all KCKCC winter softball camps.