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June 14, 2004

Danville's Jackson, KSD's Brunton are Female Athletes of the Year

From: Danville Advocate, KY - Jun 14, 2004

Staff Writer

The impact each had on her school and teams was evident, though not always in the same way. But both Danville's Krystal Jackson and Kentucky School for the Deaf's Mickie Brunton made a difference in their own way.

That's why the two have been named The Kentucky Advocate Female Athletes of the Year for 2003-2004 in voting by a selection committee.

It was the first tie in the history of the girls' award, and Brunton is the first female athlete from KSD to earn the honor. Jackson is the first Danville female since Tori Tillman in 1995 to win.

Jackson led Danville's girls basketball team to its winningest season ever and a berth in the All "A" Classic state tournament. She also led the Admirals' soccer team in scoring with three four-goal games.

Brunton didn't have the team success to show off - KSD has just 13 girls in high school that can play sports and struggled against larger teams - but she is one of the most talented athletes to graduate from KSD .

A look at each of the honorees:

Mickie Brunton

Brunton was the best player on both the volleyball and basketball team for the Colonels. She averaged a team-high 11 points and seven rebounds, and also shot 40 percent from the floor in basketball. In volleyball, she was the team's setter and provided on-court leadership.

But her impact reached far beyond her own skills, according to KSD athletics director Paul Smiley.

"I think she's just the total package," Smiley said. "She's not only the best athlete in terms of her skill, her desire, her leadership of the other girls ... she's just a catalyst that brought everybody else up for four years. With her, we played the very best we could play.

"We were competitive because in a small school one player can make a significant difference. She's made a bigger difference than anyone we've ever had here."

Bruntonis also president of the senior class, student body government and the Kentucky chapter of the Junior National Association of the Deaf.

She was named the KSD student-athlete of the year every year of her high school career, and was recently selected as a first-team All-American by the NAD Silent News Magazine.

Smiley said she always served as an example to her younger teammates.

"She's never missed practice, and she always led by example," Smiley said. "When she would work hard in practice, everybody else would, too. (Volleyball coach) Billy Lange and (basketball coach) Kevin Ha-milton have the highest respect for her. She received more awards at our athletic banquet than anybody I can recall."

Jennifer Paycheck, the high school's academic team leader, said Brunton is an example to everyone she meets.

"Mickie serves as an excellent role model for other students through her positive behavior and leadership qualities," Paycheck said in a letter. "She encourages other students to do their best at both school and extra-curricular activities."

School counselor Stuart Harper said Brunton's work in the classroom is also worthy of recognition.

"Mickie is an intelligent and highly principled young woman," Harper said in a letter. "She is a dedicated student, concerned about doing her best academically. I am especially impressed with Mickie's willingness to challenge herself in the classroom.

"She treats others with respect, and her calm approach and ability to motivate and organize others makes her a natural leader."

Brunton had been at KSD since fifth grade, and Smiley said her leadership reaches throughout the whole school. But one of his key memories of Brunton came in her final basketball game.

KSD lost the opening game of the 45th District Tournament to Boyle County 96-15. But Smiley said what Brunton showed throughout that loss is what he'll remember her for.

"At the end of the game, everybody in that arena respected Mickie Brunton because she gave her best effort every second of that game," Smiley said. "Obviously we all like to win, but if you lose, if you play with dignity and pride and give your best effort, you're respected. That's why she's so special."

Krystal Jackson

Jackson has been a constant on the Danville girls basketball team since taking over as a starting guard in her eighth-grade year.

This season Danville won 20 games for the first time in school history and also won the 12th Region All "A" Classic to earn a berth in the small-school state tournament.

"It was great," Jackson said. "When we were at Bate (Middle School), we dominated. When we got to high school, we kind of slowed our pace but then we built it back up again together. It felt good to get to state and to win the region and to do it as a team.

"We did our best. We all enjoyed it. It couldn't be replaced, and I wouldn't change a thing. I love all these girls like sisters and I'm going to miss them."

Jackson, who has signed to play basketball for Lindsey Wilson, led the team in scoring last year with 15 points a game and shot 47 percent despite having to compensate for her lack of height with some off-balanced shots.

"She's always been small in stature, but big in heart and big in work ethic and big in her desire to succeed," Danville athletics director Sam Harp said.

Standing only 5-6, Jackson also tied for the team lead with seven rebounds per game. But Danville assistant coach Kim Hawkins said Jackson was always more than willing to play above her height.

"Krystal has this infatuation with being a post player," Hawkins said. "When we were at practice, she'd say, 'I'll post them up,' and she'd start to head down there."

When she did focus on being a guard, Jackson always impressed former Danville coach Justin Schommer with her desire to improve.

"I think the thing I'll remember most is that she always wanted to get better," Schommer said. "She'd ask a lot of questions. She just wanted to play well and she was happy when the team played well."

Jackson also became a standout player for the soccer team this year when she moved out to a forward position. She had three four-goal games, and led the team in scoring in only her second year playing.

"Because it was a new sport to her, I felt like when she was coming in, she was not really comfortable because she was brand new to it," former Danville coach Marty Sullivan said. "She was very shy, very humble, and a very, 'Yes coach, no coach,' kind of player. She doesn't blow her own horn very much."

When asked what Jackson's biggest gift was, answers ranged from her quickness (Sullivan), her love for the game (Hawkins) and her ability to make the big play (Schommer). But to teammate and friend Shatoniah Miller, Jackson is just that: a friend.

"She's trustworthy," Miller said. "She's an excellent friend, she's an excellent ballplayer and a really good student. She's always there for you."

But Jackson may always be remembered for the big plays she made on the basketball court.

"She was always the one come up with the big steal or the big basket or a block, a mo-mentum changer whenever we needed one," Schommer said. "She was the one that would step up and hit the big shot for us."

"She has a true love for the game of basketball," Hawkins said. "She wants to go out every time and give everything she has to contribute to her team to add to a win."

Copyright The Advocate-Messenger 2004