Fort Osage activities director Brandon Hart once called Kelcy Vanarsdall, “The poster child for all the good things about Fort Osage High School and high school sports.”

The sun pounded the pavement near the recycling containers at the Grain Valley Community Center, as a groundskeeper ignored the sauna-like conditions to mow and trim around the perimeter of the scorched parking lot.

The sun didn’t seem to bother the solitary figure – and for good reason. Battling the elements and ignoring impossible weather conditions was never a problem for Fort Osage High School graduate Kelcy Vanarsdall.

Fort Osage activities director Brandon Hart once called Vanarsdall, “The poster child for all the good things about Fort Osage High School and high school sports.”

Her cross country coach Chris Earley added, “A student-athlete like Kelcy comes along once in a lifetime – if you’re lucky.”

Over a remarkable four-year career, the former Indian earned a 4.0 GPA, was an award-winning member of the school choir and won 12 varsity letters – four each in cross country, basketball and track and field.

“In the classroom or competing in a varsity sport, she always represented Fort Osage in a fashion that made you proud,” Hart said.

And now, she’s living a lifelong dream as a student-athlete at the University of Missouri.

“I always wanted to go to MU,” said Vanarsdall, whose father Dennis was a standout former Tiger football player and whose sister, Katie, is a letter-winner on the varsity track and field team.

“When we were little, we’d pack up and head to MU for football games. It was one of the really cool things I remember about growing up. It was always MU for me – I never really considered going to any other school.”

And after a memorable first year, she’s eager to earn a little spending money this summer while working for the Grain Valley Parks and Recreation Department.

“Coach Earley actually got me this job, and they’re great to work with,” said Vanarsdall, who recently returned from serving as a counselor at a World Missions camp in Oklahoma.

“I’d always gone to camp, but never as a counselor,” said Vanarsdall, who will soon leave for another camp counselor outing. “I am so grateful that my bosses let me go on the mission trips, because they’re really special to me. I always went on camp outings when I was a little kid. Now I’m one of the counselors and it gives you a whole new insight into what the camps mean.”

Vanarsdall has always enjoyed a challenge, whether it came from rain and heat during the cross country and track and field seasons, or the intense scrutiny one receives while auditioning for choir.

“Oh, I was challenged at MU my freshman year,” she said, grinning. “I tried out for choir – and I made it. Yeah! And I went out for track and guess what? I’m competing in the heptathlon.”

The heptathlon is a demanding event that features the high jump, long jump, shot put, javelin, 200 meters, 800 meters and 400-meter hurdles.

And of those seven events, just how many had Vanarsdall competed in during high school?

“Let’s see,” she said, “the 800 and one time I ran the 200. So basically, all but two of them were totally new to me. But I loved them.

“I only competed a couple of times, because it’s so demanding you don’t compete every week. I call my freshman year my learning year, because I didn’t come close to earning a varsity letter.

“But I learned a lot and am really looking forward to next year.”

Oh, and how about the classroom?

She earned a 3.8 GPA, while competing in a varsity sport, taking part in choir, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and working at the Christian Campus House.

“I like to stay busy,” she said, wiping the sweat from her brow. “MU was everything I dreamed it would be – and more. I’m blessed.”