This week we look back at two seniors who recently graduated from our area colleges and provided many memories through athletics for local fans. Dordt’s Jamie De Jager and Northwestern’s Kassidy De Jong really share a lot in common in terms of approach.

The Sioux Center News has selected one senior from each of the five schools we cover to be highlighted as the senior athlete of the year from each school for about a decade. De Jager is our choice for Dordt and De Jong is our pick for Northwestern.

Both have highly competitive spirits. Fans can see if within the first few minutes of a game. It’s relatively universal that a kid wants to win a game, but you could just see these two really wanted to win. Bad.

Perhaps more than wanting to win, they expected to win — which in sports goes a long ways in actually determining who will win.

And they could both expect to win because of they work they put in individually, knowing becoming a better individual player would lead to a better team. Yet, through watching them on the court and talking with their coaches, they both understood the importance of improving in areas that served the team best rather than themselves.

That hard work and competitive spirit led to De Jager and De Jong being extremely consistent. The opposition, the fans — everyone in the gym knew exactly what they were bringing to the table and little could be done to stop it.

That’s when you know a player isn’t good — they’re great.

But more than being great players, they’re great leaders. They wanted to contribute however they could to make those around them better. And it resulted in annual trips to the national tournament in their respective sport.

What always amazed me, though, while watching them and covering them, was how gracefully they handled games that did not go their way. I have no doubt losing ate them up inside, but it never looked like it absolutely crushed them — even though to some extent it had to, I think.

It’s likely it didn’t come to the surface though because they simply understand the bigger picture. Oh, they wanted to win. I’m sure they expected to win. But as Northwestern women’s basketball coach Chris Yaw said about De Jong, what happened on the basketball court did not define who De Jong was as a person.

I have no doubt De Jager shares that trait.

Many coaches, teammates, opponents and fans have been served well simply by being able to be around De Jager and De Jong. They both seem to have excellent abilities to serve and put others first.

And they will continue to serve others well as De Jager enters a teaching career and De Jong begins her work as a nurse.

We wish them both plenty of success in their future and thank them for the many highs they provided us through athletics!