Triple-threat jock to stay busy in college
Jessica Saunders’ run as a multi-sport star and top student shows no sign of slowing.
A standout for Hillsboro High volleyball, basketball, and track these past four years, Saunders has signed for multiple sports at Fort Hays State University.
She will join the volleyball team and throw for FHSU track and field.
In addition, she also has participated in a trap and skeet shooting team coached by her parents Susan and J.C. and has considered shooting in college.
“Yeah, so I am going to be super-busy in college as well,” she said laughing about her time management.
Saunders’ academic record betrays her martial self-discipline.
One of six valedictorians at Hillsboro and four seniors in the top 10%, Saunders has been admitted to FHSU’s honors program, where she plans to major in finance.
A combination of academic and athletic scholarships will pay all expenses which makes her parents “very happy.”
But school has always been a priority for the tightly organized senior.
“A lot of times, my routine has been get home from practice, shower and hit the books,” she said.
Saunders schedule was packed with college-level classes this year, leaving her without a minute to spare. She spent most ‘free time’ in the school library working on assignments.
“With that many sports, I had to make sure I had my class work done,” she said. “Like before anything else.”
These last few weeks of her senior year were packed with research papers, and a speech project, all of them due in the thick of track and shooting season.
“It was this final push of senior year,” she said. “But overall some of the hardest most challenging things to do have been the most rewarding.”
Hybrid learning challenged staff and students alike as they both struggled to use online platforms.
The experience made her more flexible and less resistant change, she said.
It also taught her how to be organized and keep track of multiple meetings and assignments.
“I have to get up at this time and be on this zoom at this time for this long and then I would have to make sure I knew which zoom I would get on next,” she said.
“The teachers really didn’t know how to do the online learning, so they all had different programs they were trying to use.”
She liked hybrid model better than full remote learning, but admits in-person classes work best.
“Hybrid was a good solution to our problem, which was having too much COVID-19,” she said.
Saunders is grateful this year’s sports teams got to play a full season.
Hillsboro High girl’s teams clinched several big wins this year with the volleyball team winning Class 2A substate over Sterling at Inman and basketball scoring its first Central Kansas League championship in eight years.
Saunders shone her senior year, too.
As a volleyball middle hitter, she was unanimously selected to Central Kansas League’s first team after leading the Trojans with 224 kills, 20 solo blocks and 72 assisted blocks. Saunders also made the CKL’s first team for basketball.
She has excelled as a hurler this year earning a first place in shot put and discus at the James Thomas Invitational. Hillsboro will compete Friday at regionals in Leon.
If Saunders places in the top four of her events, she will earn a trip to state.
In the meantime, her advice to students struggling to balance sports and schoolwork: stay on top of it.
“Once you’ve dug the hole it’s so much harder to get out of,” she said.