Presenting the 2021 KC Star Scholar-Athletes, and how we determined this year’s winners

·2 min read

Our annual Kansas City Star Scholar-Athlete awards program, now in its 38th year of recognizing special Kansas City-area high schoolers, is one of the coolest things we do here at The Star.

The caliber of nominees is always staggering. And we don’t take lightly the responsibility of reviewing them.

Today’s presentation of Gardner Edgerton’s Kendra Wait and Blue Valley Southwest’s Yaseen El-Demerdash as our Girls and Boys Scholar-Athletes of the Year for 2021, plus more than 100 high school winners, culminates a process that included three rounds of intense judging.

Officials from each of the 100-plus high schools within The Star’s coverage area submitted up to three nominees apiece. Each nomination included a personalized rundown of athletic skills, academic and other achievements and faculty endorsements.

This year’s first round of Scholar-Athlete judging was carried out by current and former members of The Star’s newsroom. They whittled the field to one winner per school before handing off these semifinalists to a second group of judges tasked with determining two top 10s: one for the boys, one for the girls.

The portfolios of these top 10s, our 2021 semifinalists, were then placed into the hands of a panel of final judges. Taking part in that capacity this year were Royals pitcher Kris Bubic, Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker, Sporting KC’s Kendall McIntosh, Kansas City NWSL’s Amy Rodriguez and KC Roos women’s basketball coach Jacie Hoyt.

Nominated student-athletes were evaluated 45% for their athletic prowess and accomplishments, 35% on academic achievements, 10% on participation in activities apart from sports and academics, such as community service and student government, and 10% for overall impact on their respective school’s environment. Variances in class size and rank, as well as size and competitiveness of their schools’ athletic leagues and conferences, were also carefully considered.

Within today’s pages of The Star and on, you’ll learn about overall winners Wait and El-Demerdash, plus each school’s winner. You’ll also see who else was nominated from each campus.

The overall male and female winners earn handsome trophies and typically are invited to throw out the first pitch before a Royals game at Kauffman Stadium. All school winners get tickets to the game, as well as special certificates commemorating their achievement.

Before you move on and check out this year’s honorees, please join us in congratulating each nominee and our school and overall winners, and in thanking everyone whose time and effort made it possible for The Kansas City Star to once again honor some of the brightest young men and women our region has to offer.

They’re embarking on the exciting next stages of their lives, but they won’t soon be forgotten for their indelible impact on ours.

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