83 / 60
      76 / 47
      72 / 52

      Best of the Best

      Sloan Clinic/KRCG Student-Athletes of the Year Chelsey Kroese is joined by her parents and her coach as she accepts her award.

      Chelsey Kroese and Brad Dinwiddie are both great athletes. They're both are 4.0 students. But most importantly, they're both great people.

      And now, they've been recognized as the Best of the Best --- Kroese and Dinwiddie have been named the Sloan Clinic/KRCG Student-Athletes of the Year, and both have earned $1,000 scholarships.

      Ladies first. "I don't even know what to think," said Kroese, a recent graduate of Harrisburg High School. "It's just overwhelming and exciting, and I'm just very appreciative of it." The 5-11 Kroese helped Harrisburg win basketball championships two of the past three years. In the ultimate test this March, she had the ultimate game --- 25 points, and 18 of the Lady Bulldogs' final 21 points --- in a 43-32 win over New Haven in the Class 2 title game. "That was one of those things where I just kept playing, I didn't even notice how many points I had," Kroese said. "In the end when someone told me, I was pretty excited. "I guess you could say I was in the zone." She lived in the zone. "I didn't give her that, I just reinforced it," Harrisburg coach Dan Bachmeier said. "She does not like to lose." A two-time all-state player, she averaged 18 points her senior season as Harrisburg piled up a tidy mark of 29-2. She was also named to the all-state softball team. "She gets done what she needs to get done," Bachmeier said. And she does it in all walks of life. "She's a role model and a great example for the younger kids, about how to go about your daily business in life," Bachmeier said. "She's one of those that people say: 'You need to do it like Chelsey.' That's why success comes to individuals, when you do the right things day-in and day-out like Chelsey has. "During teacher appreciation week, she told me and some other teachers how much she appreciated us. Not many kids will do that." Rest assured, the appreciation goes both ways. "Teaching and coaching are a daily grind," Bachmeier said. "Your rewards, you don't notice them all the time. Then you meet a girl like Chelsey ... you need those boosts. "It's people like her that keep you going." Kroese plans to attend the University of Missouri and major in biology, with an eye on genetics. That's heady stuff. She is considering walking on with the Tigers. "I've thought about it ... I need to talk to the coach," Kroese said. So which is a bigger thrill, acing a test or hitting a game-winning shot? Without hesitation, she said: "Definitely a game-winning shot." And the highlight of her high school career?

      "Winning state twice," Kroese said, "and being valedictorian was pretty cool, too."IIIIIKroese is the ultimate student-athlete, as is Dinwiddie, a recent graduate of Eldon High School."It's great to know that all the hard work I put in --- all the studying and long hours of practice --- it paid off," he said.Like Kroese, Dinwiddie had a perfect GPA. He lettered no less than 12 times, was academic all-state in football, basketball and baseball, and was the president of his chapter of the Future Business Leaders of America.And just for fun, he was last fall's Homecoming King."I'll tell you what, I've been coaching for about 20 years and I can't think of any other athlete that's more deserving," Eldon football coach Shannon Jolley said."I think Brad is a better person than he is an athlete, and he's been a great ambassador for our school district. For him to accomplish some of the things he's done, at this stage in his life, is just pretty overwhelming."Dinwiddie helped the Mustangs go 6-5 last fall. That may not sound overly impressive until you consider this --- Eldon made the playoffs for the first time since 1993. And in the previous three seasons, the Mustangs were a hard-to-say 1-29."I think it's great to know that the group of seniors we had proved that it can be done," Dinwiddie said. "And if you continue to put forth the effort we did, it can happen again."Dinwiddie rushed for 1,787 yards last fall and had over 2,300 all-purpose yards."He was unbelievably durable for us on the football field," Jolley said. "He was very unselfish, a great team leader."I tell our younger kids that this is the guy you want to be like. Of all the years I've coached, I don't think I've ever had a player who's put together a plan and carried out a plan as well as he has."Dinwiddie plans to attend Northwest Missouri State and major in financial management, as well as trying to make the football team."I'm not expecting that much playing time," he said, "I just want to be a part of a great team and a great organization."There were certainly plenty of worthy candidates for these honors, starting back in September and running through May with the weekly Sloan Clinic awards. The other finalists were were Tanner Bone (Jefferson City) and Kyle Dorge (Helias) on the men's side, and Elle Miller (California) and Erin Eckhoff (Stover) on the women's side.But in the end, Dinwiddie and Kroese were honored as the Best of the Best.