Each year, we check in with our male and female Kansas City Star Scholar-Athletes from a decade prior to see what they’re up to nowadays.
We found Ali Pistora, a former track and field star from Tonganoxie, in Montana, and Scott O’Donnell, a former wrestler at Oak Park, in Kansas City’s Northland.
Enjoy this look back, and look for The Star’s 2017 Scholar-Athletes from 104 schools around the Metro on Sunday, May 21.
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Tonganoxie High School
Residence: Billings, Mont.
Currently: She’s a physical therapist at a retirement community. Pistora works with geriatric patients in their 80s and 90s at St. John’s Lutheran Ministries in Billings, about an hour from Yellowstone National Park. She said she moved to Montana for the beauty of the place and this job opportunity, which she discovered during an internship. “Most of these people have memory loss,” she said. “It’s kind of their last chance (to be semi-active) before they need a lot of help just moving around ... I feel like I have a lot of weight on my shoulders, but it’s really rewarding.”
High school: A Lawrence native, Pistora was a four-year letter winner in track and field at Tonganoxie. She competed in the high jump and javelin, and set a school record in javelin as a freshman. Her personal record in high school came that year at state: at 154 feet, 6 inches, the throw ranked third in the country in 2006 among high schoolers. She was a state runner-up her junior and senior years of high school. She graduated first in her class of 116 with a 4.0 grade-point average and was even voted the Chieftains’ homecoming queen.
College: Javelin and hammer throw at K-State. Her marks as a collegian were impressive: 170-11 in javelin (at the Kansas Relays in 2011), 170-06 in the hammer and a conference-best 59-4¼ in the weight throw at the 2011 Big 12 Indoor Championships (she’d later eclipse 60 feet). When all was said and done, she’d won 14 individual titles in college and competed in the NCAA and USA outdoor championships. Along the way, she earned an undergrad degree in kinesiology and exercise science from KSU in 2011, a masters in kinesiology and exercise physiology from KSU in 2012 and a doctorate in physical therapy and rehabilitation science from Kansas in 2015. Then, it was off to Montana.
Of her time as an athlete in college, she said, “I feel like I did the best I could. Other athletes were better, but I enjoyed my time at K-State because it taught me discipline and to be a better person in my career, and be team-based. I wasn’t a superstar, but I had a lot of fun.”
Sports now: Pistora today is making a name for herself as a recreational but accomplished disc-golfer. “I play for the competition and fun of being outside and meeting good people,” she said.
Oak Park High School
Residence: Kansas City Northland.
Currently: Sales executive at Cerner who is responsible for revenue-cycle management sales (health-care finance, business process outsourcing) in the Western half of the U.S. and abroad. “I’ve been with Cerner for three years now and have been very successful in sales, and I love my job,” O’Donnell said. “Much of my time spent is working with health systems and developing partnerships for Cerner to manage their financial operations.”
Family: Married wife Amber in 2013; the couple met while O’Donnell was at Missouri. They have an 8-month-old daughter, Scottie Faye.
High school: Four-time state champion and four-year letter-winner under coach Gary Mayabb who finished his prep career with a 172-9 record, tied for most wins in school history. Went 46-0 as a freshman and 46-1 as a sophomore and won a Cadet Greco National title in 2003. O’Donnell was also academic all-state all four years of high school (he graduated with a 4.0 GPA) and ran two seasons on the Northmen cross-country team. Coming out of high school, he was recruited as a wrestler by not one, or two, or even three, but thirty-six colleges.
College: Started his college career at the University of Virginia but battled injury there and eventually transferred to Missouri for his junior and senior seasons. Wrestled three of four years, graduating in four with a degree in political science. Overall, he said he enjoyed his time in college. “One of the most rewarding experiences I had was being a legislative intern in the Missouri State Capitol, which eventually set me up for my first job in politics, O’Donnell said.
“I became a legislative assistant for a state representative and also was a campaign manager in the 2012 election cycle. We won the 2012 election in a very party-split district.”
Sports now: Sports don’t play a huge role in O’Donnell’s life at the moment — “I’m highly focused on my career at Cerner and spending time with my family,” he said — but he’s a lifelong Chiefs and Royals fan and enjoys “following and watching wrestling.” Other than that, “the majority of my time is spent with my family when I’m not working or traveling,” he said. “I enjoy being outdoors and doing projects around our house.”
Previous boys winners
1984: Danny Bellus, Washington
1985: Marlon Washington, Schlagle
1986: Brad Hinkle, Olathe South
1987: Jeff Witkop, Blue Valley North
1988: Jeff Drbohlav, Cass-Midway
1989: Tom Kreamer, SM East
1990: Shaon Fry, Oak Grove
1991: Aaron Hodges, Harmon
1992: Mike Wilson, Center
1993: Nate Minnis, Blue Springs
1994: Matt Mendlick, Olathe South
1995: Steve Fein, SM Northwest
1996: Josh Alpers, Blue Springs
1997: Brandon Wier, Olathe North
1998: Daniel Parris, Lee’s Summit North
1999: Corey Crandall, Fort Osage
2000: Tommy Hottovy, Park Hill South
2001: Jeff Durbin, Olathe South
2002: Justin Dyer, Olathe South
2003: Adam Perkins, Liberty
2004: Larry Hall, Center
2005: Louis Caputo, Blue Springs
2006: Aaron Trigg, Blue Valley West
2007: Scott O’Donnell, Oak Park
2008: Riley Reynolds, Blue Springs South
2009: Rick Settle, Olathe East
2010: Roy Wedge, Lawrence
2011: Aaron Thornburg, SM Northwest
2012: Zach Herriott, Rockhurst
2013: Nathan Butler, Leavenworth
2014: Sam Guinn, Blue Valley Northwest
2015: Dalton Schoen, Blue Valley Northwest
2016: Jacob Bohlken, Smithville
Previous girls winners
1984: Suzanne Meyer, Center
1985: Angela Cox, Olathe North
1986: Gretchen Prather, Liberty
1987: Tricia Lillygren, Raytown South
1988: Lisa Arel, Lee’s Summit
1989: Melanie Ornes, Lee’s Summit
1990: Amy Fowler, Bishop Miege
1991: Amy Cook, Lansing
1992: Angie Popek, SM Northwest
1993: Lisa Petty, Lawson
1994: Lisa Davies, Oak Grove
1995: Lindsay Thornton, SM West
1996: Kelly Andra, SM Northwest
1997: Elizabeth Baker, Pembroke Hill
1998: Lauren Jackson, North Kansas City
1999: Andrea Tietjen, Excelsior Springs
2000: Katherine Hoffman, Notre Dame de Sion
2001: Shea Swoboda, Winnetonka
2002: Jill Tyner, St. Pius X
2003: Tegan Stuart, Raymore-Peculiar
2004: Toni Picerno, Lee’s Summit
2005: Katie Martincich, Bishop Miege
2006: Erin Birmingham, Park Hill South
2007: Ali Pistora, Tonganoxie
2008: Allison Mayfield, St. Thomas Aquinas
2009: Morgan Johnson, Platte County
2010: Megan Yohe, Liberty
2011: Alexandra Keane, Notre Dame de Sion
2012: Lexie Oak, St. Pius X
2013: Cassie Wait, Gardner-Edgerton
2014: Arianna Person, St. James Academy
2015: Dorian Bailey, St. Teresa’s
2016: Jenna Gray, St. James Academy