Three times a star: Blue Springs High School's Kayleigh Jenkins never stops

Bill Althaus
The Examiner
Blue Springs junior Kayleigh Jenkins glides in for a layup in a preseason basketball jamboree at Lee's Summit West last week. Jenkins, an all-state track and field runner and a volleyball standout, will start in the Wildcats' backcourt along with friend Jayla Cornelius this winter.

Kayleigh Jenkins is a three-sport student-athlete whose athleticism defies the odds. 

In this age of specialization, the Blue Springs High School junior stars in volleyball, basketball and track. 

Last spring she played a key role in as dramatic third-place finish at the Missouri State High School Track and Field Championships by earning one individual (100 meters) and two relay (4x100 and 4x200) all-state medals, anchoring both relay events. 

This fall, she was a standout middle hitter for coach Katie Straka's Class 5 District 14 champion team, and now she is teaming with Jayla Cornelius to make a formidable guard duo on a Blue Springs basketball squad that went 3-0 in a recent jamboree at Lee's Summit West that also included Grain Valley and Notre Dame de Sion. 

Blue Springs' Kayleigh Jenkins finishes off a second-place finish in the 4x100-meter relay in the Class 5 Missouri State High School Track and Field Championships Thursday in Jefferson City. All four Blue Springs relays earned medals to help the Wildcats take third as a team.

"I'm looking forward to working with Kayleigh in the backcourt," Cornelius said. "She's an amazing athlete, and amazing basketball player and an amazing friend.  

"We haven't even played a game yet and we're all real close. I thought we did a great job. Still a lot to work on, but we'll take three wins (at the jamboree)."  

Wildcats coach Mark Spigarelli liked everything he saw from his team, and was impressed with Jenkins. 

"We have already developed some chemistry out on the court and getting off to a 3-0 start is good – really good," Spigarelli said. "Kayleigh is just an amazing athlete and player and she and Jayla are going to be a strong combination in our backcourt." 

Eagles coach Randy Draper, who has back-to-back Examiner Player of the Year and Team USA player Grace Slaughter on his team, was also impressed with Jenkins. 

"She's not a year-round basketball player?" he asked of the junior guard. "Oh my goodness, she is a player! Spig has something special going with that backcourt."

Blue Springs junior Kayleigh Jenkins knocks down a kill in Monday's season-opening match against Park Hill South. Jenkins, who missed last season with a broken ankle, totaled 14 kills in her return to the volleyball court in a 3-1 victory.

Jenkins shares that enthusiasm. 

"We're missing some great players," Jenkins said, "but we're still a very good team. I love being in the backcourt with Jayla, and I think we already have some great chemistry.  

"We love each other on the court and we do things together when we're not playing or practicing, and I think tonight we proved we can be a very good team this season."  

While Jenkins is not yet a household name in Blue Springs, but that could happen soon – very soon. 

"She's amazing," Wildcats volleyball coach Katie Straka said. "You watch her, and you can't believe she doesn't play volleyball year-round. She just has the instincts that make a great player, and she is an amazing athlete.  

"Come on, volleyball, basketball and a star in track! That's impressive." 

Count Blue Springs boys track and field coach Joe Cusack as a fan. 

"She is just an amazing athlete and an amazing young lady," said Cusack, who was at the championship match to support Jenkins and her teammates. "I can't imagine what she could have accomplished last year if she hadn't broken her ankle."  

Last summer, Jenkins had an accident on the court in which she stepped on a volleyball, broke her right ankle and needed surgery.  

That injury is one reason this school year means so much to Jenkins.  

"I'm a three-sport athlete, and my favorite sport is the one I'm playing at the time – so now, it's basketball," Jenkins said, grinning. "Last year was awful. We had all the COVID protocol we had to deal with, I had to sit out the entire volleyball season and half of basketball, but the girls on those teams and, of course, our coaches were great and kept supporting me." 

And speaking of last year, she put up the type of numbers in track that even impressed for Raytown South High School track standout Maurice Mitchell, who represented the United States at the 2012 Summer Olympics. 

"You can't be that good, and that fast, without training year-round," said Mitchell, who was honored by the Missouri State High School Activities Association at last year's state meet, where he watched Jenkins and her teammates finish third. "She's amazing! She is just a great athlete!" 

Jenkins finished seventh in the 100 meters at state with a time of 12.36 seconds. She anchored the 4x100 and 4x200 relay teams to second-place finishes.  

Jennifer Reeder, the girls track and field coach, said she has run out of superlatives when talking about Jenkins. 

"Nothing she does any more surprises me, because I have seen her do it all – and she is just an amazing kid and an amazing athlete," Reeder said. "I'm so blessed to have so many great kids on the team." 

And what does the future hold for Jenkins? 

"Most basketball, track and volleyball," Jenkins said. "I love the girls on each team, I love the coaches and I guess I like to keep busy."