Dec. 29—What is your definition of a great athlete? Is it someone who personifies a will to win and great leadership on and off the field and/or court, or is it simply someone that, no matter what, strives to be the best teammate they can be and makes their team better just by being on it. Either way you look at it, all of those qualities can be found in the Commonwealth Journal's 2022 female Athlete of the Year, Somerset senior Grace Bruner.
Bruner participates in many sports, from soccer to cheerleading to basketball, making her mark no matter what sport she is playing. After recovering from a major knee injury that cost her the second half of her junior year on the basketball court, she is off to a great start in her senior sports seasons. She scored 24 goals, second most in the county, in leading the Somerset girls' soccer team to a region championship appearance and also dished out eight assists. In a stellar start to the basketball season so far, Grace is scoring about 15 points per game as well as pulling down 8.8 rebounds per game, putting her 30th in the state so far in that category. She also is a member of the cheerleading team at Somerset that has earned a spot at Nationals.
She was surprised but humble about the recognition, pointing out her sister as another worthy candidate.
"I was completely surprised. With my injury, I just didn't think about this for myself this year. There are so many deserving athletes in the county at all the schools. I live with one. In my absences, Kate led the basketball team to the district championship and region semifinals and filled my spot at cheer nationals. I am honored and humbled by the recognition," she explained.
Coming back from an injury like the one that she suffered is more than enough to make the average person stop thinking about a future in sports, but not Bruner. She rehabbed furiously over the summer months with the hope of being released for fall sports.
"When I found out the news about my knee, I was pretty devastated but made a decision to focus on all I could to get back. I just tried to focus one day at a time to get better, hoping and praying I'd get there. I really wanted to play again with my sister and my other teammates. That was my driving force, and by God's grace so far everything has gone fairly well," she stated.
Grace also has an eye to a potential college future on the basketball court.
"I tried to protect my body during soccer to let my knee continue to heal. I really wanted to make it to basketball season with the hopes of playing in college someday. I continue to improve but I'm still trying to get to 100%," she continued on.
In an age of NIL and the ever-changing college sports landscape, multi-sport athletes are becoming rarer and rarer, although we certainly have our fair share in the local area. Bruner knows that juggling all the sports she plays is hard work but will be rewarding in the long run.
"Juggling the sports can be a challenge. I'm lucky to have coaches and teammates that understand and accept the overlap. Many days I have two practices and sometimes one team must wait until another practice finishes. I usually concentrate on the sport that is in season but cheerleading overlaps with both soccer and basketball. I try to eat right, get extra work in when I can, go to bed early and try to stay organized," she expounded.
With only a few months left in her senior season and with all that she has accomplished in her high school career, Bruner just wants to leave all of the programs she has been a part of in a better position than when she arrived.
"In my time left, my goals are mostly team-oriented. The seniors have been together for a long time and set goals for ourselves in middle school. We had hoped for a soccer region championship and came up just short. We also have basketball district and region in our sights, as well as making some noise at cheerleading nationals. Most of our girls' programs are on an upswing at Somerset High School. I just hope to leave things a little better than I found them and hopefully set an example for some younger girls to set goals and never give up no matter the adversity," she described.
Wise words from Grace Bruner, the now two-time Commonwealth Journal Female Athlete of the Year. Congratulations to her on a stellar career that isn't finished yet!
Kate Bruner- Somerset senior was a driving force on the Lady Jumpers' district championship and region semifinal run last season. She was a defensive force on the soccer team and is once again one of the top scorers for the basketball team. Also is on the cheerleading team.
Payton Acey- Southwestern junior scored 187 kills and 49 blocks for the Warriors' volleyball team this season. She also scored 12 points per game and led the team with about seven rebounds per game in the Lady Warrior basketball team's run to the Final Four last season.
Kaylee Young- Southwestern senior was one of the best defensive players on the Lady Warriors in their run to the Final Four last season. She also led the volleyball team with 236 kills in her first year playing varsity volleyball.
Maggie Holt- Pulaski County junior Maggie Holt was a dominant force on the volleyball court this year, scoring 366 kills and leading the Maroons to a district title. Holt also regularly stuffs the stat sheet on the basketball court.
Jacob Pratt is the Sports Editor of the Commonwealth Journal and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow him on Twitter @PrattTheNation