Earlier in April, Chaska High School senior Kennedy Sanders received the school’s 2023 Athena Award.
Sanders played basketball and competes in lacrosse for Chaska. Participating schools throughout the state give the award to a senior athlete who has distinguished herself in special individual athletic achievement or superior achievements in one or more sports.
“It’s really nice when you get awards that you’ve been working hard for and just to have that and obviously it’s never gonna go away,” Sanders said. “So just having that in the program and Mallory [Heyer] last year, I look up to her a lot and she won it so just like winning it after her it’s also super cool.”
In basketball, Sanders played five seasons for the Hawks, totaling 1,918 points and breaking the program’s assist record during her senior year. As a sophomore, she helped Chaska win the 2020-21 Class 4A state championship and also won four straight Metro West Conference championships. Individually, Sanders received All-State honors three times and was a finalist for the Miss Minnesota Basketball award.
In lacrosse, Sanders will start her final season with the Hawks April 15 when they host Shakopee in the season opener. As a junior she had the second-most points on the team with 58 after a team-high 53 as a sophomore. Basketball was always her first passion, but Sanders said playing both sports helped her grow as a player in each sport.
“I would definitely say my defense for basketball helps me with lacrosse. A lot of the stuff is the same like screens, help side, all of that. So it was really easy to pick up lacrosse just because I’ve been playing basketball for a couple years before that,” Sanders said.
With only one sports season left in her high school career, Sanders said she is thankful for the community support she and her teammates have received and the friendships she has developed. She is also grateful for the influence she has been able to leave on youth players who attended several Hawks games.
“It means a lot. It’s really special to have them looking up to me just because I was in the same boat when I was younger,” Sanders said. “I looked up to all the Chaska girls and I loved going to those games and when they would talk to you it’s just like such a special feeling. So I just tried to give that back, giving them the feeling that I had and making them excited to play for Chaska.”
Sanders is committed to playing college basketball at the NCAA Division I level for Colorado. She said she is looking forward to giving her best effort to the program, knowing that playing college basketball will be a significant time commitment.
“It was a pretty long process and my AAU coaches and parents helped a lot with it. But honestly I’m grateful for it. Not a lot of girls have that opportunity,” she said. “I chose Colorado just because when I went there on my first visit, I felt super comfortable right away and I knew I wanted to go back.”
She will be joining the Buffaloes, who made a run to the Sweet 16 as a No. 6 seed before falling to Iowa. Colorado finished 25-9 overall and had a 13-5 record in the Pac-12 Conference, good for third behind Utah and Stanford.
Sanders and Athena recipients from other high schools throughout the state will meet for a banquet May 5 at the Earle Brown Heritage Center. The luncheon will take place from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.