LEXINGTON — Researching what makes Jayden Standish tick as an athlete, one gets sidetracked by stories about Jayden Standish the person.
“If my daughter were to grow up and be her — even without any athletic talent — I would be very happy,” said Mike Armitage, who coached Standish as a member of the Lexington-Ridgeview softball team the past two seasons.
A 16-year-old junior at Lexington, Standish is coached in volleyball by Kelli Shaffer Aho, who won’t forget the times Standish has gone out of her way to thank tournament directors for their hard work before climbing into the bleachers to help pick up trash.
“She’s very aware that a lot of people have put in a lot of work to give her these opportunities,” Aho said. “She’s grateful for that.”
Standish, who also stars in basketball and track, is especially grateful to have received a scholarship offer from Illinois State to play softball. She will sign a national letter of intent with the Redbirds next November. Her father, John, went to ISU, and her aunt, Teresa, played softball there.
“My parents have done their best to instill these beliefs in me,” Standish said. “I love Lexington so much I just always want to portray a good reputation of our town.
"As long as I’m representing, I know the younger girls will hopefully look up to me and do the same and we’ll always have that great reputation of Lexington.”
ISU’s reputation soared for Standish when it became the first school to show interest.
“I was blessed to have them follow me throughout high school and up to this point,” said Standish, who also considered Northern Illinois, Lipscomb, Drexel and Southern Illinois Edwardsville.
“ISU is such a great school. Their schedule is amazing. My mom (Sara) has always talked to me about how ‘if you can’t play at Florida or Oklahoma, you play them.’”
Another selling point was ISU’s nursing program, which Standish plans to enter. On the diamond, the versatile infielder may settle at third base.
Last spring, Standish batted .333 on her way to first team all-Heart of Illinois Conference honors as a utility player. In her spare time, she placed 20th in the Class 1A state discus in which her season best of 116 feet, 5 inches ranked fifth in the Pantagraph area.
Standish hit .519 as a freshman. Last summer, she played for the Peoria Sluggers Gold travel team. She has played every position except pitcher.
“If she can be patient at the plate, you are going to see some very gaudy numbers the next two years,” predicts Armitage, who has stepped down as Lexington's coach to be a volunteer assistant at ISU. “Pitching aside, I would take eight Jaydens and expect to win a lot of ballgames.”
As an outside hitter in volleyball, the 5-foot-9 Standish led the Minutemen last fall in kills (3.8 per game), digs (4.6) and aces (0.5) to earn first-team all-HOIC honors.
“She’s our leader,” said Aho, who works for the ISU athletics department in marketing. “She’s the person that holds our team to that high standard that’s going to help you be successful on the court.
"She’s always working hard. She never gives up on a ball. She’s always positive, always encouraging. She’s very selfless.”
In basketball, Standish is a captain and “a great teammate,” according to Coach Bill Elias. “She’s an all-around good kid. I don’t know anybody in the conference that doesn’t like her.”
Standish averages 23.1 points for the 7-1 Minutemen, who recently lost junior star Layken McGuire for the season to a knee injury. Last year, Standish averaged 14.0 points and sank 40 3-pointers en route to first team all-HOIC honors.
“That girl is a workaholic,” Elias said. “She’s a scorer. She’s very strong. She can jump. She is unselfish. She can dribble.”
As a four-sport athlete, Standish occasionally must leave practice early to train for another sport. Some might call that getting sidetracked, but considering her success, perhaps that is the track to be on.