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Senior Spotlight: Annaby Kanning is ready for the next chapter

by DYLAN GREENE
Sports Editor | June 11, 2021 1:00 AM

Editor’s note: This is a series dedicated to highlighting local senior athletes.

SANDPOINT — Over 200 students will walk across the stage at War Memorial Field today and bid farewell to Sandpoint High. Among them will be Annaby Kanning, who took advantage of every moment she had at SHS.

Across her high school career, Annaby found a way to balance the demands of academics and multiple sports rather seamlessly, graduating with honors and plenty of scholarships.

She was a key part of several Bulldog teams, but she made her biggest mark on the slopes. As a freshman, sophomore and junior she earned a spot on the Pacific Northwest Junior National Team in Nordic skiing. She would have qualified for the squad this year as well, but junior nationals were canceled due to COVID-19.

Making the team is no small feat as only about 30 juniors make the cut each year across multiple age groups.

But for Nathan Kanning, Annaby’s dad, it wasn’t much of a surprise because of the work he saw his daughter put in every day when no one was watching.

Several times a week, Annaby would wake up at 5 a.m. to get in a morning workout before school. After she wrapped up her classes for the day, she would head up to Schweitzer and strap on her skis.

During the summer, she trained four to five days a week on roller skis, and ran as much as she could to stay in shape for the winter season.

It was a grind, but no one told Annaby she had to do it. She just possesses a self-drive to succeed that is unlike most, Nathan said.

But her commitment to skiing wasn’t always that deep.

“It was a super demanding sport, so at first it took me a while to truly love it,” she said.

Annaby didn’t start skiing until she was about 9. Her older sister, Emerson, saw a flyer from the Sandpoint Nordic Club about an opportunity to learn how to ski, and that’s all it took for the whole Kanning family to get into it.

Nathan and his wife, Becky, had no prior ski experience, so they basically started at ground zero. He even remembers a time when the family was in the kitchen learning how to wax skis.

Once Annaby got on the slopes, she caught the bug pretty quickly along with some of her friends. But as the years went on, Nathan said, others fell off while Annaby continued to stick with the sport.

She started racing at around 11 and her passion grew with every event. She said her commitment to the sport really took off when she qualified for the junior national team as a freshman. The experience was one of a kind and brought her close to people across the country.

One thing that did surprise Nathan about his daughter when it came to skiing was her ability to shine at junior nationals. He said it always seemed like Annaby had her strongest performance of the season at the event.

“She was just never shaken by the big stage,” he said.

That trait translated to the golf course as well, where Annaby earned medalist honors at regionals this past month by carding a personal best 82. She and three of her lifelong friends, CeCe Deprez, Hattie Larson and Camille Neuder, then went on to capture the first state title in the history of Sandpoint girls golf.

Annaby, who was on the golf team throughout high school, started playing golf in fifth grade when she met CeCe, the daughter of Mike Deprez, current SHS head golf coach.

Mike was able to rope Annaby into a pod of four girls he put together with the goal of earning a state title in golf when they were in high school.

That vision became reality in May and Annaby said she wouldn’t have stuck with golf for all these years if it wasn’t for her three close friends.

In the beginning, golf was just a way for Annaby to hang out with her friends, but as time went on it got more serious when the pod realized their potential.

Annaby said it felt amazing to bring home all the glory as a senior. The group knew they had one more shot, and they weren’t going to let it slip away.

“It was super fun to have that sense of accomplishment with your best friends,” she said. “We were just happy we could do that and for Mike, too, who worked so hard to bring us up as golfers and giving us a sport that I don’t think any of us would have without him.”

Nathan said he feels blessed that people like Mike came into Annaby’s life and helped guide his daughter through her many aspirations.

For a long time, soccer was Annaby’s favorite sport, but she moved away from the sport after sophomore year. She joined the cross country team in the fall of her junior year to improve her endurance and help her get better results at junior nationals on the slopes.

As a senior on the cross country team, Annaby helped the girls finish ninth at state by placing 95th.

With the sports Annaby participated in, there was quite a bit of overlap in the spring. Early in her high school career, Annaby did golf and club soccer in the spring and skiing tended to bleed into the first few weeks of both.

Annaby recalled one time when she wrapped up a full week of competing at junior nationals, flew home and Mike picked her up at the airport to take her to a golf tournament.

In seventh grade, Annaby participated in lacrosse, track, soccer and skiing at around the same time. That workload led to an overuse injury and she learned to tone it down.

What did stick was Annaby’s ability to juggle multiple commitments — a skill that she honed throughout high school. At times, the schedule might have seemed overwhelming, but Nathan said his daughter never let it impact her work in the classroom.

“She knew exactly what she needed to do and she always got it done,” he said.

Annaby, who was in National Honor Society throughout her time at SHS, is heading to Pepperdine University in Malibu, California, after graduating. She has an interest in business and engineering, but she will start out in the school’s 3-2 engineering program and see where her passion takes her.

Annaby said she looked at skiing collegiately, but a lot of the programs are on the East Coast and the pandemic prevented her from visiting them.

“It’s really sad to see that part of my life go,” she said, “but I know I’ll do it for the rest of my life and I guess I have a new chapter in store.”

Annaby said she looks up to her parents because of the sacrifices they made to allow her to pursue her many interests. She said they are extremely selfless and they never said no.

Nathan said his daughter has overcome a lot of obstacles in life to get to this point, and he couldn’t be prouder.

“It’s been a lot of fun to see this journey,” he said.

When she walks across the stage today, Annaby will think about all the people who helped her take that first step toward a new beginning.

“I think it’s going to be unreal,” she said about the ceremony. “The fact that the high school won’t be something I walk through on a regular basis and the fact that I am saying goodbye to a lot of teachers and students, it’s just so weird because they’ve been a second family for the past four or more years of my life.”