Injury gives Blue Springs South grad McKenna Lester a new perspective on softball

By Bill Althaus
The Examiner
Blue Springs South graduate McKenna Lester takes the throw while playing first base for Missouri in the Mo-Kan All-Star Softball Series Monday. Lester, after overcoming an injury and helping the Jaguars win two state titles, will take her game to Kansas City Kansas Community College.

What could have been a disaster has turned into a life reaffirming moment for Blue Springs South graduate McKenna Lester. 

McKenna, who has the rare distinction of winning her last prep softball game the last three years, suffered what could have been a devastating ACL injury her sophomore year. But throughout the six months of rehabilitation, the Jaguars outfielder discovered the impact it had on her life. And now she hopes one day to become a physical therapist. 

She visited about her stellar high school career after collecting four hits, an RBI and a run in Missouri's 6-5 and 7-6 victories in Monday's Mo-Kan All-Star Series at the Shawnee Mission School District Softball Complex. 

"It's really pretty amazing to look back at my softball career and think about all the success we had," said Lester, whose Jaguars won state titles in her sophomore and junior years and then lost to eventual state runner-up Lee's Summit North in the district championship her senior season last fall. 

"We won my sophomore and junior years and this year, we won the all-star series, so I can look back on winning my last high school game the past three years, and that's pretty amazing. I am so blessed to have had such great coaches, teammates and friends.

Blue Springs South's McKenna Lester points to the sky as she heads for home plate after hitting a home run in the regular-season finale last year. After helping Missouri to a sweep of Kansas in the Mo-Kan All-Star Series Monday and another summer of softball with her club team, Lester is ready to get her college career started at Kansas City Kansas Community College.

"I don't consider Coach (Kristi) Williams a coach, I consider her one of my closest friends. After I tore my ACL, she was texting me and calling me every day to see what she could do to help." 

More:Local all-stars help Missouri sweep Kansas in Mo-Kan Series

Following the injury, which came against Lee's Summit North, she went through six months of rehab, three days a week. 

"Everyone told me it would be awful, and it was tough, I'm not going to lie, but I found out that it helped me realize how much I loved softball and how I wanted to get back and get stronger and have a strong senior year," Lester said. "And while I was going through rehab, I realized how much it helped me, and now I want to be able to help people, so I'm hoping one day to be a physical therapist." 

While sitting on the bench her sophomore year, she turned her attention from playing to supporting her teammates. 

"I am so blessed to have been able to go back to state my junior year, when we won our second championship in a row," Lester said, "but it was an honor to cheer and support my teammates my sophomore year. That gave me a whole new outlook on the sport I love. And I missed it, and that made me work hard to get back." 

Although her prep career is over, she still has a lot of softball to play. She is in Tulsa, Oklahoma, this week with her Originals KC 18 team and expects to play between 70 and 80 games this summer before becoming a part of the Kansas City Kansas Community College Blue Devils. 

"I'm really excited about community college," said Lester, who also lettered three years in basketball at South, "because it will allow me to get bigger and stronger and see where softball takes me after my two years at KCKCC."