CLARION, Pa. (EYT/D9) — Like everyone else on March 13, 2020 — Friday the 13th — Jordan Best was blindsided.
The high school spring sports season was put on pause and eventually scuttled. Then a sophomore on the Clarion Area softball team that had huge aspirations, Best felt the sting of that lost season profoundly.
She still does.
“That’s definitely going to stay with me,” Best said. “It’s super frustrating just to know the great things that team would have accomplished. Just to know that, within a day, the season was completely canceled.”
It’s a year of playing softball Best will never get back. Even though the recent Clarion grad played the following two seasons at a high level with the Bobcats and is moving on to the Gannon University softball team, what could have been is always in the back of her mind.
One good thing came out of the shutdown for Best, however. Looking for ways to fill time and take the edge off her deep disappointment, Best began lifting weights with a purpose.
She got her start by watching videos of Clarion native Eain Brooks on Facebook. Brooks then began training Best, first in his garage and then at his gym, Forell-Barbell in Shippensburg.
“It’s definitely something I’m grateful that I got into,” Best said. “I just started during the COVID shutdown and I loved it. It definitely helped. I noticed a difference in my performance in sports. It’s nice to go into college with experience lifting so when I’m given workouts, I know what I’m going to be doing.”
Best emerged from the missing softball year in the spring of 2021 and had a monster campaign, batting .432, blasting eight home runs, driving in 35 and scoring 37 runs for Clarion.
In her final softball season, Best didn’t put up quite the same numbers, but she was still a dangerous hitter at the plate and a leader and star behind it as a catcher for a Bobcat team that went through some considerable ups and downs.
Best hit .333 with three homers, 19 RBIs and 19 runs scored.
(Photo by Theresa Forrest)
Clarion struggled at times during a 9-8 season. Inexplicably, the lineup failed to produce runs consistently down the stretch and the season ended with a 16-1 loss to Forest in the first round of the District 9 Class A playoffs.
It was a tough pill for Best to swallow, walking off the high school softball field for the last time while suffering such a defeat.
She had to think about all the better times she had with the team and not dwell on one humbling one.
“I didn’t want my season to end, and I definitely didn’t want it to end on the note that it did,” Best said. “I can’t just look at that one hard game, though, because Clarion softball has given me so many good things. I just focus on all the great things that we’ve accomplished and been through. I’m happy about all the good memories.”
Best was fortunate enough in the fall to end a sport in the best way possible.
For two seasons, Best was a standout libero for the Clarion volleyball team, which captured back-to-back PIAA Class A championships while posting a 45-0 record. The Bobcats lost only two sets in those two seasons.
Her final volleyball match ended with screams of joy and with her holding the state championship trophy.
Even Best has a difficult time wrapping her mind around what she and her volleyball teammates accomplished in consecutive, historic campaigns.
“You have to sit back and realize that, wow, this is crazy,” Best said. “It’s so amazing we won back to back, and I don’t think that’ll ever sink in. It still feels crazy.”
Like softball, Best’s last season on the Clarion basketball team was a roller coaster ride. The Bobcats surged down the stretch to make the District 9 playoffs, but the ride finally ended.
Best missed some games due to an ankle injury, but soldiered on to lead the team in scoring as the point guard.
Best was a star in high school in all three sports, but she never entertained the notion of playing anything other than softball at the next level.
“I never wanted to stop playing them, but when you get to college, it’s a lot, even with one sport,” Best said. “I knew I had to narrow it down and softball has always been my sport. My heart was always set on softball.
“When I started playing travel ball, a couple of years in when I was 11 or 12, I started really seeing success and I would always watch college softball,” Best added. “I knew I didn’t want softball to end when my senior year of high school ended, so it’s always been a dream of mine.”
Weight lifting has helped her in each of her sports.
It has also led her to a career choice.
Best will study applied exercise science at Gannon. She hopes to become either a physical therapist or a chiropractor.
“When I started getting into fitness and working out, I knew that would be something that I would like to do for a career,” she said.
Best admits she’s still learning the ins and outs of weight training — what to do and what not to do; what helps her and what doesn’t.
“Just not knowing has been the biggest challenge, like planning workouts,” Best said. “I’m still trying to figure out what the best things to do are. It definitely takes time and patience. You’re not all of a sudden going to become super strong after lifting for one day.”
These days, Best is balancing her own workout regimen with the one she has received from Gannon. She’s also still playing a travel ball season with Pittsburgh Power.
“I wanted to stay in the groove of things. I’m still working out at the gym and I have my workouts and the workouts that my coach (at Gannon) gave me. Just getting ready for college life and staying in touch with my coaches.”
Best also received another honor.
She was named Clarion Rehabilitation Services and CHAMP (Clarion Hospital Athletic Medicine Program) Co-Student Athlete of the Year this week.
Best shared the award with Keystone’s Bret Wingard.
“I got their athlete of the month, and they told me I was in the running for the athlete of the year and it kind of left my mind,” Best said. “Then they told me I got it and I was shocked. It just means so much.”
Best said it means more to her because the award also recognizes her academic success.
“That’s something I really work hard on,” Best said. “I’m really proud of myself for my academics. It’s nice to get recognized for that, too.”
Best is also grateful for the support of her family.
Her father, Matt, has been by her side throughout her softball ride that started whens he was young.
“He’s had the biggest impact on me,” Best said. “We go to the field all the time and he helps me so much. Both my parents are definitely my biggest supporters.”
Her mother, Melanie, and her sisters, Carly and Kelsey, were mainstays in the bleachers throughout the school year for whatever sport Jordan was playing at the time.
“I always love looking up in the stands and seeing my family,” Best said “It just gives me a sense of relief that they’re there and I have all the love and support that they give me. I make sure to tell them how grateful I am for that.”
Jordan Best is the middle child — Carly is the oldest at 20 and is already in an entry-level doctorate occupational therapy program at Slippery Rock University, and Kelsey, 14, will be a freshman at Clarion in the fall.
Best has enjoyed that dynamic.
“I really like it because my older sister was someone I really look up to and helped me,” Best said. “She taught me what to do when my little sister started looking up to me. It’s just really nice having both of them, one older and one younger.”
Kelsey Best is also an athlete. She will play volleyball this fall, basketball in the winter and is leaning toward doing track and field in the spring.
Like Jordan, Kelsey is a libero in volleyball.
“I love playing volleyball with her now because she’s at the age where she can actually play now,” Jordan said. “We get good rallies going and it’s fun to hear her talking about all the drills that they do in practice that I remember doing myself. She’s going to be starting as a freshman so it’s going to be cool to watch her.”
Best thinks Kelsey may eventually eclipse what she has done during her high school career, especially in volleyball, where she says her younger sister is ahead of where she was as an incoming freshman.
“I hope she has more accomplishments than me,” Jordan said. “I wish her absolutely nothing but the best.”