As I have been putting the finishing touches on this year’s Best of Preps event, I couldn’t help but think about some of the similarities this process shares with the students and athletes we will be honoring Monday, May 7 at Firelake Arena.

For months, we have been preparing for an event that won’t even last three hours.

And like the athletes who will be honored that night, when it is time to perform, I really don’t want to mess anything up.

One thing I have in my favor is that I don’t have to get into shape, but that doesn’t mean there haven't been a lot of hours of hard work put into making it all happen.

One way putting on this event is a lot like playing a sport is that having a great team is very helpful. Our team at the News-Star - from hard working salespeople, top quality journalists and a design staff that makes everything look good - is a great one. But our team picked up some extra help to make this event the best it can be.

We had a real MVP join the team this year. The Patriot Auto Group joined the team and agreed to be a huge sponsor and give away a brand new car to our Student of the Year. As good as last year was, we didn’t give anyone a car.

Thanks to Patriot of Chandler, this year one student will win a new Jeep Renegade.

Other generous sponsors like Amy Price at Shelter Insurance and Miracle Ear came together to make sure the car winner got their tag and title covered and give $500 scholarships to the four students who were finalists for the Student of the Year Award.

We also couldn’t make this event half as good without the Citizen Potawatomi Nation. They turn Firelake Arena into a premier location for an event like this each year. There is no doubt that the Arena makes this event better than it would be almost anywhere else.

In addition to the Arena, Firelake Designs helps with a lot of our materials and Tribal Vice Chair Linda Capps worked as judge for the Student of the Year competition and helped insure that every student in that competition received at least a $200 scholarship. Oklahoma Baptist University’s Director of Development Josh Trimble also worked hard each month to help identify top students in the competition.

Shawnee Honda is partnering with us to sponsor the Athlete of the Year awards that will also carry a $500 scholarship for the two winners.

In addition to those sponsors, we partnered with GF Central Plastics, Belfair of Shawnee, Shawnee Milling, Buffalo Wild Wings, Bar S Foods, Extreme Roofing, Angelic Home Hospice, Cornerstone Chiropractic, Sparks HVAC, Performance Course and Pinecliffe Printers.

In addition to those sponsors, we will be naming the Tennis Player of the Year award after Sen. Ron Sharp who was inducted into the Oklahoma Tennis Hall of Fame this year because of his legacy as a player and coach in Shawnee.

Of course Paul’s Place – the Readers Choice Best Restaurant for four years in a row – will be catering the event again and joining as a sponsor as well.

Ed Bolt will even be helping with photos of the winners and finalists.

With a team like that, you can’t lose.

More than 650 people have already purchased tickets or sponsored tables for the event. That’s an increase of more than 50 from last year with a week left to sign up.

This is going to be big.

Hundreds of people will share a great meal in Firelake Arena and honor some of the best students and athletes from the 13 schools the News-Star covers.

On top of that, we’re giving away more than $27,000 worth of prizes and scholarships that night.

Like the slow pitch teams getting ready for this week’s state tournament, the golfers getting in a last practice round before the State Tournament, tennis players getting in one last tournament before the playoffs and baseball teams playing regional warm-up games, we are taking advantage of the last few days before the big night.

With a team like ours – and great athletes and students in this area to honor – we can’t lose.