LEXINGTON — There was no offense taken when a coach called the Pantagraph’s choice for Area Female Athlete of the Year “a no brainer.”
Athlete of the Year choosing can involve comparing many equally impressive apples and oranges, so any year when an athlete such as Jayden Standish outshines all others, the decision-making process is delightfully easy on selectors’ brains.
Looking back at past honorees, many were three-sport athletes. Standish did four.
The Lexington High School junior led area basketball players in scoring (21.7 ppg), led area discus throwers (127 feet, 5 inches) and ranked second in softball batting average (.569) and home runs (10 in 22 games).
Besides being the Heart of Illinois Conference discus champion, she was tabbed first-team all-HOIC in volleyball, basketball and softball. As a 5-foot-9 outside hitter, she led her volleyball team in kills (3.8 per game), digs (4.6) and aces (0.5).
An Illinois State softball recruit, Standish did all the above while making her coaches appreciate her personality even more than her athletic prowess.
“She’s just a good kid,” said Lexington basketball coach Bill Elias. “She’s a good leader for younger kids. She works as hard by herself as she does with her teammates.”
Volleyball coach Kelli Shaffer Aho said the most important things about Standish are “her leadership and how she carries herself. She is devoted every day.”
Softball coach Jeff Doll agrees.
“When we’re in practice, she’s like another coach out there,” he said. “She’s always helping other kids.”
After learning of her most recent accolade, Standish immediately thought of others.
“I have never felt more blessed or more absolutely in love with my teammates who helped me through everything,” she said.
In basketball, Standish lost her biggest helper, Layken McGuire, to a season-ending knee injury.
“I could see that she knew it was going to put a bigger load on her,” said Elias, who could also tell Standish's attitude was “I’ll just pick up the slack.”
McGuire has returned to summer basketball action, so she and Standish are eager to help the Minutemen top last year's 16-7 record as well as their 17-10 campaign as sophomores.
Standish tries not to think about getting injured herself.
“I feel that doing four sports has really helped me to build muscles that allow me to stay healthy,” she said.
Doll marvels at her power. He estimates several of her homers traveled 275 feet.
“It’s her power that you really notice," he said. "I think she has both the body and the mentality to be elite even at the next level.”
In facing competition year round, Standish doesn’t flinch when the pressure is on.
“I think it helps her teammates out, too, to not freak out,” Aho said. “In those (pressure) moments, you look to your leader and if she’s calm and confident, then you are too.”
Standish needed a miracle final throw to advance from the state discus prelims. She got it and went on to place seventh.
“We try to put pressure on her in practice and she almost always came through with a good throw,” said her discus coach, Don Anderson.
Standish is already bracing for “a big change” when she specializes in softball at ISU.
“I’m excited for change,” she said. “I’m excited about my future.”
When asked how difficult it will be to give up volleyball, basketball and track, she confessed, “You have no idea.”
After the state track meet, Standish allowed herself a week of rest before reporting for travel softball duty along with summer workouts for basketball and volleyball.
“I don’t really feel like it’s quite over,” she said of her whirlwind junior year. “The summer is just about the same.
"I feel like I’m used to it now, but the success and just all the fun that we had this year really helped make it so easy. It didn’t feel like a lot.”