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Athletes find devotion to pursuits pays off

Mike Boyle Correspondent

As graduation ceremonies commence at area high schools, several outstanding athletes will see their competitive athletic days come to an end.

A few will go on to continue their sports careers in college next year.

One thing they will have in common is that their journey to become productive members of society is just beginning.

While there are many area athletes who have been team standouts, graduation is also a time to reflect on those who made a difference without fanfare.

Brad Groce Medical Lake High School

One such unsung hero is Medical Lake’s Brad Groce. Groce both wrestled and played soccer all four years with the Cardinals. This past season Groce finished sixth at 152 pounds at the 2A state-wrestling tournament.

“It was a big accomplishment because it fulfilled going to state all four years of high school,” said Groce. “Just placing sixth made me happy since I placed sixth last year and didn’t my sophomore year.

“I was happy to place three times out of four years. Not many people can say they’ve done that.”

On the soccer field, Groce didn’t garner the accolades of the goal scorers but defended his team’s goal well enough to be honored as the Great Northern League’s defensive MVP this season.

“It means a lot,” Groce said. “I was trying to get it last year.

“I trained really hard for this year, and now that I have it, it means a lot. It shows that we’ve all worked hard.

“It wouldn’t have happened if everybody didn’t help out and contribute to it.”

Groce’s exploits this year led to Peninsula Community College offering a soccer scholarship for next season, capping a great senior season.

“It’s the best year I’ve had so far, probably the best year of my life with all of the sports, the awards that I’ve won, the soccer scholarship,” said Groce.

Kristin Crosby Liberty High School

Another student athlete who will continue her athletic career next year is Liberty High School’s Kristin Crosby.

The Lancer senior will play basketball and softball next year at Walla Walla Community College after playing those two sports and volleyball at Liberty. She was the only senior female athlete to letter in all three sports this season with the Lancers.

“It’s crazy to think about how fast these years have gone by,” said Crosby. “I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.

“It’s amazing how much I’ve accomplished.

“With basketball, I played three years on JV (junior varsity), and then in my senior year became a starting varsity player. With softball, as a freshman I started on the varsity, so I’ve probably accomplished a lot more in basketball, but I’ve contributed a lot in softball.

“Volleyball’s been a sport I love to do.”

Crosby wasn’t a first-team all league performer on the field, but off it, her effort, determination and leadership led to major contributions to her teams.

“As a senior, you have to be a leader yourself,” Crosby said. “I’ve been working on myself to keep myself up, and when I see someone else down, I want to keep them up, because then it keeps everyone going.”

That kind of effort led to the Lancer softball team providing Crosby her greatest memory at Liberty: “Becoming Bi-County champs in softball.

“I was so excited, I cried. It was the greatest day of my life,” said Crosby, who hopes to coach softball or basketball when she’s out of college.

“I took the trophy home, and I set it right next to my bed and slept next to it all night. It was the greatest feeling ever.”

Brendan Chestnut Ferris High School

Achieving goals could sum up Ferris High School’s Brendan Chestnut.

The senior began his athletic career as a Saxon on the soccer field, only to shift direction.

“My goals changed a little bit,” said Chestnut.

“When I came in, I was playing soccer. My brother actually talked me into running cross-country to help me get in shape for soccer.

“I started running and really liked it and kept doing that. In between my sophomore and junior year, that summer I decided to really take it seriously and trained a lot harder.

“I set some goals for myself to run on the varsity and be one of the top guys on the team as a scoring runner.”

Mission accomplished.

Chestnut was a big part in the Saxons winning the state 4A cross-country team championships his junior and senior seasons.

“Probably the most memorable moment I have is winning state for the first time my junior year,” said Chestnut. “It was the first time we had done it in a long time.

“I had just really started seriously running that year. It was a really unique experience, something I hadn’t done before. I had played soccer, and we had won tournaments before, but not that big.”

Unfortunately for Chestnut, any hope of enjoying soccer, running or any other sport this spring came to an end with a hamstring injury he suffered at the end of the cross-country season.

“It was fairly disappointing, but I did have a good cross country season,” Chestnut said. “I really enjoyed that.

“I realized it’s not always going to be how I want it to be. It could have gone better, but it’s over and done with now, and I can just look forward to running in college.”

Chestnut, who has a grade-point average of over 3.9, will enroll in the fall at Yale, where he hopes to study business or economics.

“It will be a really new experience for me moving back to the East Coast,” said Chestnut. “I’m looking forward to just branching out a little bit from the normal everyday stuff I do here, figuring out what I want to do with my life, where I want to go, all that stuff.”

Somehow it seems Groce, Crosby and Chestnut all will find the right path.

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