Derrick Webb, Staff Writer
CHILLICOTHE — When Sierra Mitten first set foot on Southeastern’s high school campus, she knew she had big shoes to fill.
Mitten’s two older sisters — Kali and McKinley — had already made names for themselves, finding success in the Panthers’ soccer and basketball programs.
Kali, who graduated in 2017, practically wrote the soccer program’s record books while becoming a key member of conference championship winning hoops squads. McKinley, who graduated this past spring, followed in her footsteps by rewriting those same books and developing into a scoring threat for those same SVC-title winning basketball teams.
All in all, while Kali and McKinley were at Southeastern, the soccer program found its origin and the basketball team compiled and overall record of 92-30 with three conference crowns.
You can bet your bottom dollar Sierra Mitten noticed all of that taking place.“There was a lot of pressure on me as I came into high school,” she said. “I always felt like I had to meet my sisters’ standards and be as good as they were.”
As a freshman, Sierra immediately played in McKinley’s shadow as her older sister habitually terrorized opposing defenses, in both sports, during her senior year. And though she never got the chance to play on the same team as Kali, both of her sisters taught her valuable lessons.
“I always loved watching my sisters play. I learned a lot by watching them, so when it was finally my turn to play, I already knew some tips to be better,” Sierra said. “McKinley helped me a lot through my freshman year. It was always fun playing with her. Kali and I always played the same position but never on the same team. So when Kali graduated, I tried to fill her spot and work together with McKinley.”
Now, it’s just Sierra. She doesn’t share the spotlight anymore and she’s carrying on the legacy her sisters left. She even wears Kali’s high school jersey numbers, No. 9 in soccer and No. 2 in basketball.
Kali, who appreciates that gesture, says she sees herself and McKinley in her little sister.
“Sierra reminds me a lot of McKinley and myself in the way that she plays,” Kali said. “I see myself in Sierra in the way that she plays defense and hustles. She usually guards one of the best players on the opposing team. But she also reminds me of McKinley in her shooting abilities. I think she’s a good mix of both of us. I was so happy when she told me that she was going to wear my old numbers in soccer and basketball.”
That makes sense considering the time Sierra’s spent looking up to her sisters. But, according to her, it was never a competitive environment. She simply tried to learn tricks of the trade.
“None of us competed very much with each other. Kali and McKinley always played different positions on the field and the court, so they always worked together,” Sierra said. “One of my best memories with my sisters is after our practices. We stayed after to shoot basketball with each other. We would just play around with each other and have fun.”
And, as you might imagine, the three are stuck like glue together while away from sports .. even when both older sisters are away for college.
“Sierra is the best little sister I could ask for. She’s always joking and having a good time. I love spending time with her and I miss her so much when I’m away for college,” Kali said. “Even though we’re both really busy, we still try to talk everyday. I’m so proud of the person and player that she’s become.”
So far, Kali and McKinley’s advice has been working to a tee. But it also takes someone like Sierra who will listen and apply those lessons to the playing field.
This past soccer season — en route to a first-team all-district honor — Sierra broke the school record for goals in a single season with 36 and goals in a single game with seven.
Who held the previous marks? Of course, McKinley and Kali.
She’s also now taken over as the Panthers’ point guard and while she isn’t going to score 20 points each night, she doesn’t want to either. She’s focused on distributing the basketball and running Southeastern’s offense, reminiscent to Kali’s playing days.
“My role in soccer has changed already, from going from midfield to forward,” Sierra said. “For basketball, as the point guard, I gauge my success on how well I help my teammates, the amount of points the girl I’m guarding has, and how many assists I have per game.”
If that’s what she’s gauging success on, she must be having a pretty good season in her own mind … which would be a correct statement in everyone else’s as well.
After sitting behind McKinley on the Panthers’ bench last season, Sierra has adjusted quite well to the speed of the varsity game. She plays hard, hustles after every loose ball and is a coach’s dream to have on a roster.
So what can she do to become even better?
“My goals for this season are to try and become a more confident player and to make my team better so we can achieve more,” Sierra said. “My best attribute is that I will do whatever my coach needs me to do and I always try to be positive and supportive of my teammates.”
McKinley supports that statement.
“I expect her to become a confident leader, play hard and play the way she knows how to,” McKinley said. “Sierra’s best trait is her work ethic and her humble attitude.”
Those traits are certain to lead Sierra to even more success down the road.
Make no mistake about it: Sierra Mitten is following in her sister’s footsteps but that doesn’t mean she’s not making a name for her own self. By the end of her career, when local sports fans are discussing great players to come out of Southeastern, Kali and McKinley’s names will surely be joined by Sierra’s.
Thanks to Sierra, the Mitten legacy torch is still burning bright … no signs of going out.