We don't see Candace Buckner's byline in The Star's sports section nearly as often as we'd like. Covering high-school sports, Buckner's columns don't get the top-of-the-page placement and the hype and glory of Jason Whitlock's, and Buckner isn't likely to leave anytime soon for a job at Sports Illustrated, as Joe Posnanski did this year. But high-school sports touch far more readers' lives than the cocky colleges, the annoying Chiefs or the depressing Royals. And despite the high level of teen angst that she undoubtedly encounters on her beat, Buckner avoids any temptation toward melodrama. Instead, she just writes with grace and insight about everyday athletes, coaches and their families. Standout stories this year included her July profile of Rosa Mendez, the East High School soccer player who was struggling against the cultural obstacles keeping young Latinas from playing games that leave them bruised and battered; her March piece about the tight bond between Lee's Summit West basketball star Michael Dixon and his opposite-in-personality yet adoring younger brother, Jarred; and her February column about how the girls on the Park Hill South swim team — led by a group of freshmen — just kept shattering school records. We wish we saw more girls in The Star's sports pages. Until that day, we'll continue to watch for Buckner's mug.