Editor’s Note: The Courier-Tribune’s Boys and Girls Athletes of the Year for Liberty, Liberty North, Kearney and Smithville were selected by sports writer Mac Moore based on his opinions from covering the teams and using insights provided by area coaches when available.
Liberty North Girls Athlete of the Year: Rachel Spainhour
Rachel Spainhour, a three-sport athlete, started her senior year by achieving a year’s worth of memories and accolades before she ever turned to her second Liberty North sport in the winter.
Spainhour helped power the Liberty North volleyball team to an undefeated record on the way to a Missouri Class 5 state championship. The Eagles finished the year 24-0 with 15 wins coming off of sweeps, including each district match and both state final four matches.
Spainhour helped give the team a four-headed monster at the net along with junior Isabel Zimmerman, freshman Carlie Cisneros and junior Caitlyn Burns. The group proved unstoppable with junior setter Addison Beagle, who earned Gatorade Missouri Volleyball Player of the Year honors, putting the quartet in the perfect position for the kill.
Spainhour accounted for 146 kills while leading the team with 14 solo blocks and 84 total blocks.
She also stepped up during a particularly important moment in the early going of the state title match against Nixa. Spainhour keyed a 3-point run late in a first-set struggle.
The Eagles took the set and never looked back.
Spainhour noted at the time that their historic season was even more rare because they completed their state title run during a pandemic while competing with masks on their faces.
Spainhour earned Missouri Class 5 all-state honors and all-conference first team while making all-district second team. She also earned all-region honors from the American Volleyball Coaches Association.
She immediately transitioned to her role as a forward on the Eagles girls basketball team.
Spainhour averaged 7.6 points, 6.5 rebounds, 2 assists, 1.5 steals and 0.6 blocks. She took on a larger role following Maddie Niemeier’s season-ending ACL injury 11 games into the season. It took her a while to settle into the role, but Spainhour ultimately scored double-digit points in the three of her final six games for the Eagles. She also picked up a steal in her final 12 games after getting a steal in four of her first eight outings.
Spainhour delivered her first double-double of the season in the team’s first-ever win against crosstown rival Liberty as she led the team with 16 points and pulled down 10 of the team’s 21 rebounds. She led the Eagles with a 48% rate from the field, which ranked fourth in the Suburban Gold. Spainhour earned a spot on the Missouri Class 6 District all-district team and earned all-conference honorable mention.
In the spring, Spainhour jumped into competing in track and field. She won the conference championship in the long jump with a leap of 5.14 meters, setting her personal record in the event.
She ultimately advanced to sectionals in the long jump and triple jump with fourth-place finishes in both. She took fourth in the triple jump at conference and district meets before a sixth-place finish at sectionals left off a state bid. This was her top event as sophomore, with Spainhour topping out with a seventh-place finish at districts in 2019. She took ninth at district in the long jump that season.