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Bryant reminds me of Benton

To this day, I remember Keri Benton.

During her senior year, I wrote a column about the way she played basketball at Ridgecroft School and how I would never forget her attitude, effort and mental toughness. I’ve held true to that promise over the years that have ensued.

In recent years, I’ve often been disappointed by student-athletes with all the talent in the world and none of the hard work of Keri Benton. It has been a disappointment.

Over the past five years, however, I have seen a student-athlete with talent who has worked hard every day, played with guts and determination and been the type of player that I can compare to Keri.

That student-athlete is Hayes Bryant.

I’ve covered soccer matches and basketball games in which Hayes has played for the past five years and I have never once seen her embarrass herself, her parents or her school. She has been a class act both on and off the courts and playing fields.

In my own opinion, talent will get you very little. There are prep athletes with talent walking the hallways of every school in this region. It’s what you do with that talent that makes you special.

Hayes has maximized her talent in every sport she has participated in. She won state championships in soccer and tennis and played for one in basketball. That kind of personal success translating into team success doesn’t happen because someone is good. They have to want the people around them to be better and work to make them better.

As I put together my notes for the two stories that accompany this column, the single most impressive thing said to me came from Ridgecroft Soccer Coach Aron Martin. He told me that Hayes worked to make her teammates better, not just, in matches, but in practice. For a star athlete (and lets not kid ourselves, Hayes is a star athlete) to take time to make their teammates better is unusual. It shouldn’t be, but it is.

During the past five years, I’ve become personal friends with Hayes and her family and I’m proud of everything she has accomplished and I know her family is as well.

One of the greatest testaments to her athletic career has been that she played through pain in almost every athletic event she’s competed in.

A bad knee, a broken finger and various other injuries have threatened to keep her on the sidelines many times. She has rarely been there.

Many others would have walked away when the pain became too much or when the injuries started to mount, Hayes didn’t. Instead, she played hurt. She played in pain. She pushed herself sometimes past her own limits.

I’m as impressed by that as any award she has earned during her playing career. Hayes Bryant has guts that she has demonstrated by being on the court or on the field when others wouldn’t have.

I don’t know if I’ll ever cover another student-athlete that wins as many awards as Hayes has during her career at Ridgecroft School. It certainly doesn’t seem likely. I doubt seriously that I will ever cover a student-athlete who plays with more guts, dignity and heart that she has.

I’m pleased to know that all these years later there are, Keri Bentons who still play the game.

Questions? Comments? Snide remarks? All are welcome.

You can reach me at thadd.white@r-cnews.com or call me at 332-7211.

Be careful out there and be good sports.