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Derby seniors Sydney Nilles (left) and Jacob Karsak (right) were selected by school coaches as senior athletes of the year.

Jacob Karsak and Sydney Nilles are no strangers to having their names called in postseason honors.

However, both were awestruck when they received a note from principal Tim Hamblin, naming them as this year’s recipients of Derby senior athletes of the year.

The annual honors are eligible for seniors that participate in a minimum of two varsity sports and possess leadership qualities. The selections are based on votes from varsity coaches.

“It’s such an honor,” Nilles said. “I wasn’t even thinking about this type of award. I have to say thank you to all the coaches and staff who put my name in. I’m very thankful that they all had faith in me.”

Nilles is signed to play basketball at Newman University next year. The three-sport athlete received 11 all-league and three all-state selections during her Derby career.

Karsak will play football at Southwestern Oklahoma State University (NCAA D-II school in the Great American Conference). The senior rebounded from a broken leg in the state championship game of his junior year to earn postseason honors in football and basketball.

“It’s definitely a blessing,” Karsak said of the award. “It feels good knowing coaches, staff recognize and realize the hard work you’ve put in … it’s awesome knowing [the time and work] wasn’t for nothing and it was noticed.”

Their senior seasons provided two of the biggest pedestals of their careers.

Five of the top six wide receivers/tight ends at Derby will depart its roster in 2020. As one of the four seniors in that group last fall, Karsak said he took it upon himself to help prepare the next wave.

“We’d have our offensive meetings and there were some freshmen and sophomores that I got to mentor a little bit,” Karsak said. “I enjoyed helping bring them along and to watch them grow, learn the playbook and learn how to work hard.”

Nilles, who was a four-year starter for the Lady Panthers, was called upon to lead a roster that included multiple contributors in the freshman and sophomore class.

It was experience that she said will pay major dividends as she prepares for college.

“I wouldn’t trade it for the world,” she said. “… I learned so much from the other girls [I played with] and that there are so many types of leaders. I told the girls I had faith in them, that they’re good players and they had the potential to play at a high level.”

Karsak was also named as one of two recipients for the Executive Director scholarship through the Kansas Basketball Coaches Association. Schools must be affiliated with the KBCA to have its players selected. This particular scholarship is funded by money earned by officiating from organization executive director Randy Walling.


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