2021 DFJ FEMALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR: THE FINALISTS
Kate Barkema, sophomore, South Hamilton
A four-sport athlete, Kate Barkema was a varsity contributor on the volleyball and basketball courts, the track and on the softball diamond for South Hamilton during the 2020-21 school year.
She’s got talent in every sport she plays, but on the track is where she stands out.
Missing out on her freshman campaign on the track because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Barkema took out her frustrations on the competition this spring. She and her fellow youthful teammates left no doubt that South Hamilton girls’ track will be a force for the foreseeable future.
A four-time Heart of Iowa Conference champion in sprint relays, Barkema competed in four events (Class 2A) at the state track and field meet in May and helped the Hawks win medals in the 4×100 and 4×200. She also ran a leg on the ninth-place sprint medley relay and competed in the 100.
Barkema was an honorable mention all-HOIC selection in softball. She hit .309 with 15 RBIs, and also wielded a pretty good glove in center field.
Alayna Finucan, junior, Webster City
It was said a year ago and it needs to be said again — we’re all getting a chance to watch one of the best players in the history of the Webster City volleyball program, and her name is Alayna Finucan.
The WCHS senior-to-be added a third first-team all-North Central Conference honor to her resume last fall after collecting 384 digs, 50 assists, 48 service aces and 32 kills. The libero’s career digs total sits at 1,394, already a school record, and she’ll attempt to push toward 2,000 this fall. Should she reach it, that record can be written in pen … because it will never be touched.
But Finucan is far more than a one-sport phenom. Her track season started late due to injury this spring, but she was fully healthy for a successful softball season that saw her start every game at shortstop for the conference championship winning Lynx. She hit .283 with six extra-base hits, 29 runs scored, 13 RBIs and, oh yeah, she was a perfect 26 for 26 on stolen base attempts en route to a first-team all-NCC accolade.
Mackenzy Grady, junior, South Hamilton
Whatever sport is in season, South Hamilton junior Mackenzy Grady is going to play it and play it well. And she took it to another level during her junior campaign.
Starting in volleyball last fall, Grady ripped off 65 kills to go along with 51 digs and seven service aces for the Hawks.
Skip ahead to the winer where she earned all-Heart of Iowa Conference honorable mention honors after averaging 6.1 points, 2.1 steals, 2.0 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game on the basketball court.
Track and field? Yep, she can do that too. Grady set a school record in the discus in April before a leg injury forced her to watch for several weeks. She returned to competition just in time to qualify for the state meet (Class 2A) in the throwing event.
And it’s softball that’s probably her best sport. A catcher and power hitter, Grady bashed eight home runs and drove in 30 runs while hitting at a .380 clip, and was a first-team all-HOIC performer this summer.
Leah Kasch, senior, Webster City
Her attitude and personality are infectious, and her talent over four sports is equally inspiring. Yes, Webster City senior Leah Kasch is easily one of the area’s premier female athletes.
Another four-sport varsity contributor in volleyball, basketball, soccer and softball, Kasch saved her best for last in helping the Lynx claim their first North Central Conference softball title since 2013 this summer. A defensive vacuum at third base, she found her offensive rhythm as well and hit .404 with two home runs and 30 RBIs out of the No. 2 spot in the lineup. She was a no-doubt first-team all-conference performer.
A defensive specialist on the volleyball floor, Kasch collected 99 digs and 15 service aces for WCHS last fall.
Transitioning to the winter, she started every game and scored 7.5 points per game for the WCHS basketball team. She also averaged 3.8 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 1.3 steals.
A forward on the soccer pitch, Kasch was one of the Lynx leading scorers in the spring with four goals and six assists.
Jenna Miller, senior, Webster City
Like Leah Kasch, Jenna Miller was a senior leader in each of the three sports she played for Webster City during the 2020-21 school year. She accomplished plenty too, like a pair of all-North Central Conference honors.
A setter in volleyball, a forward in basketball and a pitcher/infielder in softball, Miller was just steady each time out, regardless of the sport.
She dished out 207 assists to go along with 152 digs, 19 kills and 16 service aces on the volleyball court in the fall.
Stepping into the basketball starting lineup full-time, Miller reached third-team all-NCC status by putting up 8.4 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.6 steals per game. She was solid in the paint, but could also step out and bury the 3-pointer if left open.
Softball was her sport though and she put up strong numbers — a .281 batting average with four home runs and 30 RBIs, and throw in seven doubles for good measure out of the clean-up spot. In the pitching circle, she put together a 10-4 record with a 3.15 ERA and 71 strikeouts.
Kelly Stoakes, junior, Webster City
Webster City has produced more than its share of softball stars over the program’s long history, and Kelly Stoakes is just the latest example.
And by the time she’s done, she’ll be amongst the best.
Now a three-time first-team all-NCC player, Stoakes continued on pace to become the best hitter in Lynx history this summer, as she raked at a .462 clip with four home runs and 29 RBIs … even though many teams tried to pitch around her. She walked 22 times.
Was she the best player in the NCC? The conference doesn’t hand out an MVP award, but plenty of people would say so, and she did lead WCHS to the league title.
Like the rest of the finalists, Stoakes played multiple sports.
She was a back row contributor in volleyball last fall where she piled up 178 digs and eight service aces.
The point guard for the Lynx basketball team this past winter, Stoakes averaged 7.9 points, 3.6 rebounds, 2.8 steals and 2.5 assists per game.