Meet The Star’s scholar-athlete winners, Alana Vawter and Alex Totta
This is literally the most difficult decision we make every year.
But it’s worth the many weeks of attention poured into it, because The Kansas City Star’s Scholar-Athlete awards program also happens to be the best thing we do each year.
Today’s presentation of Blue Valley’s Alex Totta and Staley’s Alana Vawter as our overall boy and girl winners culminates a process that included, as usual, three rounds of judging. But in explaining what our Scholar-Athlete awards are all about, we’re getting ahead of ourselves here.
The selection process really started in late winter, when officials from each of the 100-plus high schools within The Star’s coverage area (generally speaking, the KC Metro) submitted up to three nominees — graduating seniors only — for the honor. Each nominee was accompanied by what amounted to a resume of skills on and off the field or court, plus personal endorsements from those who know him or her best.
Think of the application process for a scholarship and you’ll get the idea.
A first round of judging, carried out by members of The Star’s newsroom staff and other high school sports insiders, followed. This group of judges whittled the field to one winner per school by comparing the qualifications of each and every candidate.
Next came a new set of judges, again comprised of staffers present and past with knowledge of the prep sports scene — only this group was tasked with narrowing the 100-plus semifinalists to two top-10 lists: one for the boys, one for the girls.
Those top 10s were then handed to this year’s panel of celebrity final judges: Chiefs offensive lineman Laurent Duvernay-Tardiff, Royals infielder Hunter Dozier, Sporting KC defender Seth Sinovic, KC Sports Commission CEO and president Kathy Nelson, College Basketball Experience CEO Kevin Henderson and our very own Sam Mellinger.
The judging criteria remained the same through each stage of the process: Student-athletes were evaluated 45% on their athletic prowess, 35% on academic prowess, 10% on participation in activities apart from sports and academics, such as community service and student government, and 10% on overall impact on their school environment — usually summarized well in an endorsement note from faculty. Variances in class size and rank, as well as size/competitiveness of schools’ different athletic leagues or conferences, were also carefully considered.
Within today’s pages of The Star or on Kansascity.com, you’ll read about each school’s winner — all so talented and deserving — and find out who else was nominated from each campus. You’ll also learn more about Totta and Vawter, our overall winners for 2019: He is headed to the Naval Academy; she’ll soon depart for Stanford. And we’ll look back, as we do every year, to our boy and girl winners from 10 springs ago and see what they’ve been up to since then.
Along with receiving handsome trophies recognizing them as our 2019 overall winners, Totta and Vawter will throw out the first pitch at a Royals game later this month at Kauffman Stadium.
So there you have it. Congratulations to all nominees and our school and overall winners, and thank you to everyone whose time and effort made it possible for The Kansas City Star to once again honor some of the best and brightest young people our region has to offer.