Athlete of the week: Kayti Hanson, Elk River, softball: Diamond dandy
by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
While softball is Kayti Hanson’s best game, this Division I bound shortstop has a prolific three-sport resume at Elk River. It will include 13 letters, membership in two state championship teams, and all-conference recognition in softball, cross country and basketball.
Not to mention this year’s ERHS Athena Award for senior all-around athlete/citizens, and last year’s Excel Award for junior sports/academic standouts.
Her career highlight was helping an unheralded Elk softball team (22-7) capture the state Class 3A title in 10th grade as the shortstop of a squad that committed zero errors at state, winning 1-0, 2-1 and 1-0.
“We really had the chemistry,” Hanson reflected. “We played so smart. How many teams can go three games without an error?”
Hanson was also part of a state cross country champion team her junior year and fourth place her senior year.
She is a teammate the girls look up to.
“Kayti is a true leader, as far as her vocal and physical presence,” said softball coach Stacey Sheetz. “She has worked hard to become such a fluent leader.”
Hanson started at second base in grades 8 and 9 while current Gopher starter Dannie Skrove, a close friend and personal hero of hers, played shortstop. Hanson moved to short in 10th grade and has been all-conference and team Gold Glove winner two straight years.
The Elks have started 3-1 this year with Hanson achoring the infield while not hitting her stride yet at the plate, 2-for-11 with four steals.
In the field, she is smooth, alert, always hustling, and fires an accurate throw in a split second. Her defense caught the eye of the Inidana-Purdue-Fort Wayne coach at a Chicago tournament last summer with the powerful MN Blizzard team. She signed with them in October.
“She is so smooth and quick,” said Sheetz. “Flawless technique that comes from her determination to be the best.”
A “slap” hitter from the left side, always a “tough out,” she had a .294 career mark, mostly singles, entering her senior year. She has an impeccable eye for the strike zone, usually making the pitcher expend several pitches. She is also an aggressive but shrewd baserunner.
Hanson, 5-foot-7 and 135 pounds, hit .316 with 22 runs in 29 games for the state champ team. Last year she hit a career-high .357 with 16 runs for an 11-12 team. “She keeps defenses on their toes,” said Sheetz.
In basketball, Hanson has been on varsity since ninth grade and a starter since 10th grade. She didn’t score much until this year when she aeraged 8.0 points along with 5.0 assists and 1.4 steals, for a 16-12 team. She was the team MVP and made all-conference.
“Kayti self-motivates, and motivates her teammates,” said coach Reed Caouette, adding that Hanson’s best skill was finding the open person on the court, and that she made herself a better player each year.
Few basketball or softball players are also distance runners. Hanson started in ninth grade when a basketball buddy, Jenna Berkley, asked her to run with her.
Hanson was a good enough runner to make all-conference in 10th grade (placing 19th) and honorable mention as a senior. However, the last two years, by the time sectionals and state came around, swifter junior-high girls replaced her in the top seven as the Elks won state in 2009 and took fourth in 2010.
“We had tremendous depth thanks to runners like Kayti. That’s why we won a state title and have been considered an elite team for two years,” said coach Mike Niziolek, adding that Hanson’s leadership helped set the high standards.
Despite cheering from the sidelines at the big meets the last two years, Hanson regards CC as a good experience that served its main personal goal. “I always went into basketball with so much stamina from running, more than anybody in the conference,” she said, typically making the best of whatever position she’s in.
THE HANSON SCORECARD
Personal file — Age: 18 … Family: parents Gary and Sandy; brothers Taylor, 21, and Connor, 16 … Sports: cross country, basketball, softball … Other activities: Athena Award winner, Xcel Award winner (junior year), National Honor Society, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Spanish Club, prom committee … Academics: 3.85 GPA …. College plans: Indiana-Purdue-Fort Wayne, softball, major undeciced
Favorite stuff — Classes: Anatomy & Physiology, Careers in Coacing, Photo III, Independent Study helping Mrs. Sheetz’ elementary PE class … TV shows: “Pretty Little Lars” and “Grey’ Anatomy” … Music: Tim McGraw, Drake, Rascal Flatts … Teams: Twins, Wild, Gopher softball … Favorite athletes: Dannie Skrove, Lindsay Whalen, Kemba Walker … Food: pasta, peanut M&M’s … Drink: strawberry lemonade … Place she’d like to visit: tour Europe … Kickback activity: hunting