What is your definition of a great athlete? Is he someone who personifies a will to win and great leadership on and off the field and/or court, or is he simply someone who, no matter what, strives to be the best teammate he can be and makes the his team better by being? on it. Either way you look at it, all of those qualities can be found in the 2022 Commonwealth Journal Female Athlete of the Year, Somerset senior Grace Bruner.
Bruner participates in many sports, from soccer to cheerleading to basketball, and makes her mark no matter what sport she is playing. After recovering from a major knee injury that cost her the second half of her junior year on the basketball court, she is off to a great start in her senior sports seasons. She scored 24 goals, second most in the county, in leading the Somerset girls soccer team to a region championship appearance and also dished out eight assists. In a stellar start to the basketball season so far, Grace is averaging 15 points per game as well as pulling down 8.8 rebounds per game, placing her 30th in the state so far in that category. She is also a member of the Somerset cheerleading team that earned a spot at Nationals.
She was surprised but humbled about the recognition, pointing to her sister as another worthy candidate.
“I was totally surprised. With my injury, I just didn’t think about it for myself this year. There are so many deserving athletes in the county at all schools. I live with one. In my absences, Kate led the basketball team to the district championship and region semifinals and filled in for me at cheer nationals. I am honored and humbled by the recognition,” she explained.
Coming back from an injury like the one she suffered is more than enough to make the average person stop thinking about a future in sports, but not Bruner. She rehabbed furiously during the summer months in hopes of being released for fall sports.
“When I got the news about my knee, I was pretty devastated but I made a decision to focus on everything I could to get back. I tried to focus one day at a time to get better, hope and pray that I get there. I really wanted to play with my sister and my other friends again. That was my driving force, and by God’s grace everything has gone quite well so far,” she said.
Grace also has her eye on a potential college future on the basketball court.
“I tried to protect my body during football to let the knee continue to heal. I really wanted to make it to basketball season in hopes of playing in college one day. I keep getting better but I’m still trying to get to 100%,” she continued.
In an era of NIL and the ever-changing landscape of college sports, multi-sport athletes are becoming more and more rare, although we certainly have our fair share in the local area. Bruner knows that juggling all the sports she plays is hard work but it will be rewarding in the long run.
“Juggling sports can be a challenge. I’m lucky to have coaches and teammates who understand and accept the overlap. Most days I have two practices and sometimes one team has to wait until another practice finishes. I usually concentrate on the sport that is in season but cheerleading overlaps with both football and basketball. I try to eat well, get extra work when I can, go to bed early and try to stay organised,” she explained.
With only a few months left in her senior season and with everything she has accomplished in her high school career, Bruner just wants to leave all the programs she was a part of in a better position than when she arrived.
“For the rest of the time, my goals are mostly team-oriented. The seniors have been together and set goals for ourselves in middle school. We were hoping for a football region championship and we came up a little short. We also have district and region basketball in our sights, as well as making some noise on nationals cheerleading. Most of our girls programs are on the rise at Somerset High School. I just hope to leave things a little better than I found them and I hope to set an example for some younger girls to set goals and never give up no matter what the adversity is,” she described.
Wise words from Grace Bruner, the Commonwealth Journal’s Female Athlete of the Year. Congratulations to her on a stellar career that isn’t over yet!
Senior Kate Bruner-Somerset was a driving force in the Lady Jumpers’ district championship and region semifinals last season. She was a defensive force on the soccer team and is again one of the top scorers for the basketball team. He is also on the cheerleading team.
Payton Acey- Southwestern junior scored 187 kills and 49 blocks for the Warriors volleyball team this season. She also scored 12 points per game and led the team with nearly seven rebounds per game in the Lady Warrior basketball team’s run to the Final Four last season.
Kaylee Young- Southwestern senior was one of the best defensive players on the Lady Warriors in their run to the Final Four last season. She also led the volleyball team with 236 kills in her first year playing varsity volleyball.
Maggie Holt- Pulaski County junior Maggie Holt was a dominant force in court volleyball this year, scoring 366 kills and leading the Maroons to a district title. Holt also regularly fills out the stat sheet on the basketball court.
Jacob Pratt is the Sports Editor of the Commonwealth Journal and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow him on Twitter @PrattTheNation