Believing that once you give up on sports, you can’t get them back, Kennedy Benne, a 5’8 guard for the Briar Cliff Chargers helped lead the school to its first Great Plains Athletic Conference championship. The 2020 grad of Oakland-Craig has earned a host of honors in her first three seasons of collegiate basketball.
Kennedy, the daughter of Dale and Stephanie Benne of Oakland, enjoys most every aspect of the game and even finds it to be an outlet for the stress college brings. “When I am stressed with homework, I usually go to the gym to get some shots up and to take my mind off things,” she shared of the game she loves. But is not all fun and games, she said that competing at the next level takes dedication.
“My coaches put a huge emphasis on the student part of being a student-athlete,” she said. “During the season I have class all day and between classes I have to find time to get in the weight room. Some days we will watch film before heading down to the court for practice.”
Hard work paid off for the college junior this season as she continued to add to career stats. A member of the 1,000 point club at Oakland-Craig High School, she is just a couple hundred points shy of the same achievement on the college level.
Although she finds many similarities in playing at the high school level and college level, she does reference some notable difference.
“The main difference is the pace of the game and physicality,” she said. “Having a shot clock really speeds up the game, but I love it. I love to play at faster pace. As for teammates my experience has been pretty similar. I had amazing teammates in high school that were like my sisters, and I have that same relationship with my college teammates. I have been really lucky to play under a great coaching staff at Oakland-Craig and then again at Briar Cliff University.”
The gym at Briar Cliff has become her new home but said she enjoys it when they play at Midland Gym. “In high school we played at Midland a couple times so when I play there in college it reminds me of when we won the East Husker Conference Tournament at Midland,” she said.
Having created many wonderful memories playing high school ball, Kennedy has found several moments of college ball she will continue to cherish.
“By far my favorite collegiate memories come from this past season. Winning the GPAC for the first time in school history is something I will never forget. The atmosphere was insane and the amount of support we received was unmatched. I don’t think I have ever received so many free shirts!! Also, playing in the Tyson arena was a crazy experience. That has been our team goal for years, so it was exciting to finally experience it.”
Not everyone is given the opportunity to participate in college athletics. If given the chance, Kennedy encourages those fortunate to be able to compete shouldn’t hesitate.
“I think if anyone is considering playing a collegiate sport, they should give it a try. Once you give up sports you can’t get them back. Playing a college sport isn’t for everyone, but if you are considering it, I say give it a try! Also, you need to treat college sports like it’s your job. Behind academics it needs to be one of your top priorities.”
As she slows down a little in the off-season, she pauses to remember her local fans and former coaches who helped her become a leader on and off the court.
“There are a lot of people I would like to thank. First, I would like to thank my family for the endless support and late night driving they have done. I would love to thank Joe Anderson. Anderson is one of the best coaches I have ever played for and anyone that gets to play under him is incredibly lucky. I would also like to thank Merritt Nelson. Merritt has been someone that has believed in me since elementary. He would always give me pointers while being incredibly supportive. I would also like to thank my current coaches at Brair Cliff. Coaches Ortmeier, Sonius, and Sterkel believed in our team so much and we wanted to win for them. I also owe my teammates a big thanks. I wouldn’t have any of my successes without the amazing players surrounding me. Lastly, I would like to thank our fans. We have a great group of fans at Briar Cliff that give us a really cool atmosphere to play in. It’s also really special to see people from Oakland-Craig at my games."
In case you’re wondering, like many athletes, routine is important for Kennedy who said she has a top-secret playlist of 5 songs that she listens to before every game that started in high school.
Whatever those songs are, they are sure working for her.
Kennedy plans to return to the court for Briar Cliff for the 2023-24 season.
Kennedy Benne Accolades at Briar Cliff Through Three Seasons
Freshman Year, 2020-21: Kennedy appeared in 26 games for the Cliff scoring 268 points. She grabbed 103 rebounds and dished out 63 assists. Her 97 steals rank third in a single season in program history. She scored a season-high 23 points against Doane on Dec. 19, when she knocked down five 3-pointers. Kennedy recorded five steals or more 11 times and was named GPAC Tri-Defensive-Player-of-the-Year and earned honorable mention all-GPAC. Kennedy was also named the Briar Cliff Female Freshman Athlete of the Year.
Sophomore Year, 2021-22: Kennedy appeared in all 30 games for the Chargers scoring 212 points. She grabbed 98 rebounds, had 46 assists and 64 steals. She scored a season-high 15 points against Doane on Jan. 8th with five rebounds and three steals. Kennedy tallied over three steals in eight games, including eight against Jamestown and was named honorable mention all-GPAC.
Junior Year, 2022-2023:Kennedy was a part of the Briar Cliff Women’s basketball team that won the GPAC and advanced to the NAIA round of 16. Kennedy was co-defensive player of the year, 2nd team all-GPAC, Champions of Character award winner, and NAIA Liston Award Nominee. She scored 358 points this season and had 82 steals on the season to lead the GPAC. Scored a season and collegiate career high 27 points against Doane on Jan. 18th where she had 5 three pointers.