Park Center girls basketball player Mikayla Hayes was just a freshman when former Park Center girls basketball coach Chris VanderHyde began his four-year coaching career with the Pirates.
Hayes believes VanderHyde’s coaching philosophy and emphasis on making his players become good citizens helped set her up for success off the court.
“I set goals for myself, but I thank [former Park Center head girls basketball coach Chris VanderHyde] for this,” Hayes said. “He kept me focused on having good character and he knew we were going to do what we needed to do on the court, so he had us focusing on being there for each other and sacrificing ourselves for each other.
“He brought all of those qualities out of me, and he came when I was a freshman, so I began learning those things really young and now that I’m a senior and I have accomplished all of this, it’s all worth it.”
Hayes’ development as a leader off the court, her academic accomplishments and her excellence on the court, where she helped lead the Pirates to four consecutive state tournament appearances with two Class 3A state titles and one Class 4A consolation championship, made it easy for Park Center to name her as the school’s Athena Award recipient.
“I’ve been trying my best to make a name for myself,” Hayes said. “The Athena Award isn’t just about being good at sports, it’s about being a leader.
“It has been my goal for a long time to really make that known about myself, to be a leader on and off the court. I think the Athena Award really shows that, and being acknowledged for that has been a goal of mine for a while.”
Due to a delay in announcing the winner, Hayes was unsure if she would be honored as Park Center’s Athena winner.
“It took a long time to announce it, but I’m really happy I got it,” Hayes said. “I had forgot about it for a while, then I saw other people get excited about it and then I was curious if I got it.
“They had then called me down and I was super happy that I was the one that got it.”
Hayes recently completed her senior year with the girls basketball team by taking the Pirates back to the Class 4A state tournament. The Pirates fell to Eastview in overtime in the first round, but they came back to win the consolation championship with wins over Minnetonka and Andover.
“It wasn’t the way we wanted to end it, but I’m happy I got to play with my teammates for as long as we did,” Hayes said. “We did get to take a trophy home, so everyone was happy we got to end together with a trophy.
“It makes us feel good, so I’m really happy with the way the season went.”
Hayes will be taking her talents to the University of Florida next season, where she will look to develop her skills with the Gators. She is currently unsure about what major she will be pursuing, but she believes she is leaning toward a business major.
Contact Chris Chesky at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @MNSunSports or @SunSportsChris.