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      Best of the best

      The best of the best.

      You know who they are --- those high school athletes who do the right things, both on and off the field.

      And when nobody's looking.

      Not just good in sports, but good in class, good people.

      Some of our high school kids fall a bit short of that. You know who they are, too.

      KRCG and the Missouri Orthopaedic Institute at Capital Region is honoring the best of the best. We've honored Student Athletes of the Week since the start of the school year. All seniors, all deserving, all very worthy.

      Now, we're honoring the Student Athletes of the Year, as voted on by you.

      Garrett Buschjost, Helias, and Sara Jones, Blair Oaks. Well done. Well played.

      And oh by the way, here's a scholarship check for a $1,000.


      LADIES FIRST, SARA JONES. And first things first --- the person, not the player.

      "She's one of a kind," Blair Oaks softball coach Sharon Buschjost said. "There's just something really special about her; she's unique.

      "She always wanted everyone around her to do just as well, if not better, than she's doing."

      (Sidenote: Buschjost and Buschjost are distant cousins by Sharon's marriage. Great stuff. :o)

      Sharon continued.

      "Sara's highly motivated on a level that you don't see from the average person. She only knows one speed with everything she does, and that's to give it your all and put everything into it.

      "She has a plan for herself and she knows how to go about it."

      A plan? Most high school seniors have no idea about their future. Sara Jones does. She will attend Missouri State in Springfield and major in Elementary Education, and then ...

      "I want to start teaching first grade and build my way up to an elementary principal," Jones said. "Then, I want to coach in middle school or high school.

      "I'm quite the planner. But God knows what's in store, so sometimes those plans can change."

      Jones hit .473 her senior year, scored 43 runs and had 25 RBI. She went 4-for-4 with a two-run homer and three RBI in Blair Oaks' 10-1 win over Desoto in last fall's state semifinal game.

      "That was probably the game of my life; it's one game I'll never forget," Jones said. "It didn't go our way in the state championship game (a 9-2 loss to Centralia), but when you look back and reflect on the season, you couldn't have asked for much more.

      "We enjoyed it every step of the way."

      Great on the field, even better off it. Jones, who also played basketball and competed in track and field, was the Valedictorian of the Class of 2014.

      She did not miss one day of school her senior year. Impressive.

      But then there's this: She did not miss one day of school --- FROM KINDERGARTEN THROUGH HER SENIOR YEAR. Not one day in 13 years.

      Amazing. Stunning. Unbelievable. Even those words fall short of describing that feat.

      "She defines what every high school student and athlete should ultimately strive to be," said Sharon, fighting back tears. "She's the ultimate student-athlete."

      Said Jones: "It's a great honor and accomplishment, and it shows that academics are very important, whether you're an athlete or not. An education can take you a long way.

      "Both arenas mean a lot to me."

      She continued.

      "Everything you learn in sports carry over to every other aspect of your life, that's why I think sports are so important. I was just blessed to take those traits I learned, both on and off the field.

      "I love Blair Oaks and I'm glad I can represent Blair Oaks with such a great honor. I'm proud to represent the Green and White with a decorated honor like this."

      Simply the best.


      LET'S MOVE ON to our other winner and the other Buschjost, Garrett.

      "He's just a wonderful young man," Helias football coach Phil Pitts said. "Great on and off the field as a leader. He's always trying to make his teammates better, always trying to help them out.

      "As a coach, you can trust Garrett to do the right things, both on and off the field. We're proud of him for more than being a great football player."

      Said Buschjost: "This (honor) means a lot; all the time and effort I put in with school and sports, it paid off in the end. It's great knowing you have the community behind you in everything you do."

      The running back helped Helias advance to the state championship game the last two seasons. His senior year, he was a workhorse ---- 279 carries for 1,790 yards, 25 catches for 287 yards, and a staggering total of 35 touchdowns, a school record, not surprisingly.

      And Buschjost did this on the heels of a late position move his junior season.

      "He was a quarterback on the JV team," Pitts said, "but he was such a great runner, we decided to move him to running back. We gave him a shot and he took that position and just ran with it.

      A running back ran with it. Good one.

      "He was willing to do anything for the team; he wanted the ball in the tough situations," Pitts said. "He was like having a coach on the field."

      Buschjost didn't like the move, he loved it.

      "I don't know what it was," he said. "I'd never played running back before, but me and the position got along well. It was a lot of fun, actually."

      Buschjost, who also played basketball and baseball, will attend the University of Missouri and plans to major in Ag Business. His football career, he said, is over.

      "I played through grade school and through high school, I figured that was enough. Now, I just want to focus on my school work."

      Congratulations to all of our Student Athletes of the Week this school year, especially to the other finalists --- Dylan Albertson, California; Darrien Dickey, Iberia; Miranda Hill, Russellville; and Maddie Scrivner, Eldon.

      But in the end, Sara Jones and Garrett Buschjost were the best of the best.