KITTITAS — It’s one thing going through your entire high school career getting a couple varsity letters whether that may be through a varsity sport or club.

But 15 of them on the other hand is another story.

Senior Payton Hyatt achieved this during her time at Kittitas Secondary School. You might be trying to do the math because in reality, a student can only play one sport in the fall, winter and spring which would be a perfect 12 varsity letters in four years.

But Kittitas does something different. It rewards students for participating in three sports — or three clubs — during the school year, giving them a letter from that alone. You don’t necessarily have to be on the varsity team either.

It’s called the “Golden K”, something former Kittitas principal Del Heistand started three years ago.

“He wanted to recognize and award the kids who played all three sport seasons,” said health and fitness teacher Frank Wood.

Hyatt has been a three-sport athlete right from the start of her freshman year. She vied in volleyball, basketball and softball. The only year she didn’t earn a varsity letter was her first season in volleyball — before the Golden K was implemented.

Competing in three different sports was a challenge, but it was well worth it for Hyatt.

“I rarely have a lot of free time,” she laughed. “But I probably wouldn’t have done that any different either because I feel like it shaped me into the person I am today because through sports, you’re put in a lot of difficult situations for not only person growth, but just difficult situations of people you might not always get along with. But you have to overcome that because it’s sports and you can’t let that effect anything.

“It helped me a lot with everything honestly that I’ll probably be moving on forward to.”

Hyatt didn’t have trouble balancing it all with academics. The toughest part may be that she won’t be part of any varsity athletics moving forward.

“When I first started out, yes, but after a while I basically got into a rhythm and got really comfortable with it,” Hyatt said. “So now when I’m not playing any sports it feels really weird. I think it will be difficult next year, but yeah, I’ve gotten used to it for sure.”

She still hasn’t given up her most beloved sport just yet. Kittitas’ softball season ended last Saturday, qualifying for the 2B state semifinals for the first time in head coach Nate Phillip’s 16-year tenure. Hyatt clubbed three home runs in the tournament — two of them in Kittitas’ 13-3 win over Colfax High School.

She’s playing for Ellensburg Synergy softball this summer in a few tournaments before she leaves to Western Washington University this fall.

“Just so it’s not completely over yet,” Hyatt said.

She’s going to be studying cultural anthropology and an endorsement in secondary education. Both her parents are teachers, so growing up with that, she gained early interest.

As for anthropology, a class at Central Washington University was an incentive to want to study it at WWU.

“I always really liked history, but I wanted to travel and do something with it,” Hyatt said. “And, I took an anthropology class at Central last year and I really enjoyed it. And so that’s where it kind of started everything. But yeah, it’s definitely something I enjoy.”

Hyatt was also looking into University of Washington and Bellevue College for softball. The latter didn’t offer enough academically.

She ended up only applying to WWU, in the town of Bellingham that’s quite opposite of the Kittitas Valley.

“It’s definitely a change,” she said. “Honestly, I really like change and so, growing up, I loved growing up in Ellensburg, but I was ready for something different. And Bellingham is definitely different, so I’m excited for it — I’m really excited just for something new.”

What did she enjoy most about Kittitas?

“Growing up in a small town, the sense of community — it’s awesome,” Hyatt said. “It’s really cool growing up knowing that you have people in the community who have your back, and knowing everyone in your class. Especially with my class, it’s like a huge sense of family almost. Like, we all know each other, we all know we’re there for each other — we mesh really well.”

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