STEVENS POINT, Wis. — Kenzie Koppenhaver of Kiel High School has been selected as the 2023 Wisconsin recipient of the Spirit of Sport Award presented by the WIAA, the Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin (DFW) and the National Federation of State High School Associations.
The Spirit of Sport Award program was created by the NFHS and adopted by the WIAA in 2018 in partnership with the Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin. The award recognizes individuals who exemplify the ideals of the spirit of sport that represent the core mission of education-based athletics.
On Dec. 24, 2021, Koppenhaver was driving to work with her older sister, Brenna. Approximately one mile from home, driving on a road engulfed in heavy fog, their vehicle was struck by an oncoming vehicle. The collision resulted in a traumatic brain injury for Kenzie, which left her unconscious and in a coma for two weeks following the accident. Brenna sustained injuries, including a broken pelvis and lacerated spleen.
In Kenzie’s recuperation process once out of the coma, medical personnel began asking questions to gauge her cognitive ability. They noticed when they spoke about sports and soccer, her positive expressions indicated how important her participation in the sport would be in the healing process.
With her participation in the 2022 soccer season in doubt, Koppenhaver focused her energies on getting healthy and playing with her teammates in the spring as a motivating factor, determined to return to school and play for the Raiders.
Following weeks of therapy in the hospital, she gradually began going back to school until she was able to attend on a full-time basis with her sights set on preparation for the first day of soccer practice in March. Prior to the first practice, she was cleared to participate in non-contact drills at practice. As the season began and progressed, she continued to recover and get stronger. On April 7, she returned to competition in the Raiders’ fourth game of the season to play her first game since the accident.
The Raiders, with Kenzie’s story the catalyst and inspiration, experienced its best season in school history with a 22-0-3 record and its first-ever berth in the State Girls Soccer Tournament in 2022. Koppenhaver played in 15 games after receiving All-Eastern Wisconsin/Packerland Conference first team honors as a defender in 2021.
During the summer and fall of 2022, Koppenhaver continued her soccer experience at the club level, experiencing success with her team at the national level.
In addition to Koppenhaver, finalists for Wisconsin’s nomination for the Spirit of Sport Award include Lucy Art of the University School of Milwaukee, Sam Coon of St. Mary’s Springs Academy, Trevor Le-Morrison of Greenfield High School and Carter Morrison of De Forest High School.
As the Wisconsin recipient, Koppenhaver will receive an award sponsored by the Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin. She will be presented with the award and recognized at the 2023 WIAA Annual Meeting on April 26.
The NFHS Spirit of Sport Award was started in 2008. Including this year, 14 individuals and three teams have been chosen as national award recipients. Nominations for the award are generated through NFHS member state associations and reviewed by the NFHS National High School Spirit of Sport Award Selection Committee composed of state association staff members. A national winner will be recognized in June at the NFHS Summer Meeting in Seattle, Wash.
Lucy Art – University School of Milwaukee
Art is a four-time letterwinner in girls swimming and the 2022 WIAA State Division 2 champion in the 50-yard freestyle. She also set a school record in the event during the season. In addition, Art placed fifth in the 100 freestyle last fall and ninth in the 50 freestyle in 2021.
While on a family trip during Spring Break in March, 2022, Art was attacked by a blacktip shark while swimming with her brother off the coast of Vero Beach, Fla. After being bitten on the legs, she pulled her hand from the shark’s mouth and escaped to the shore, where the lifeguard and a doctor on vacation from Boston, Mass., tended to a significant wrist injury.
Pain and reduced flexibility in her wrist revealed severed tendons as well as vein and other tissue damage. She underwent surgery to repair the injuries. After six months of recuperation, including physical therapy sessions three days a week for four months.
Her hard work and effort paid off with her success at the State Championships in the fall. She has committed to attending Colgate University to continue her swimming career.
Sam Coon – St. Mary’s Springs Academy
Coon received all-conference honorable mention in basketball his sophomore season and participated in football when he was diagnosed with Ewings Sarcoma, a rare cancer that occurs in bones or around the soft tissue of the bones.
He underwent 10 sessions of radiation over the course of nine months and had surgery to remove three ribs and a solid tumor in his chest. During this period when he wasn’t being treated at Children’s Wisconsin Hospital, he continued to attend school as well as football and basketball practices despite the inability to practice and play except for a few games during the basketball season, which served as inspiration to the team and school community.
As inspirational as these most recent challenges have been, it isn’t the first time Coon has dealt with a life-threatening illness. In 2017, he was diagnosed with Aplastic Anemia, a rare blood disease that attacks the body’s bone marrow. He underwent chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant before being isolated for several months, preventing him from attending school or participating in sports for a year.
He has faced his adversity with faith, determination and a positive attitude. He is currently cancer free and in great health. This past fall, he caught 20 passes, including two touchdowns for the Ledgers, who advanced to Level 4 in the playoffs. During the 2022-23 basketball season, he finished second on the team in scoring, averaging more the 13 points per game while leading the team in assists.
Trevor Le-Morrison – Greenfield High School
Le-Morrison was a junior standout and team captain on the boys soccer team, receiving All-Woodland Conference honors in 2021 before he was struck by a vehicle on May 21, 2022.
Attempting to elude friends chasing him in a water-gun battle, Le-Morrison ran onto the road and was struck by an SUV driven by an individual that immediately drove away from the scene. Le-Morrison was hospitalized in serious condition with a broken collarbone, fractured vertebrae, two broken femurs, internal bleeding and other injuries.
Le-Morrison spent 81 days in Children’s Wisconsin Hospital with multiple surgeries and therapy learning and regaining his strength to walk and kick again.
Despite not being able to play his senior soccer season in 2022 while recovering from his injuries, Le-Morrison attended practices and games to fulfill his duties as team captain. Following the campaign, he was presented with the Woodland Conference Perseverance Award for his hard work, leadership and dedication to his team.
Carter Morrison – DeForest High School
Carter is a multiple-sport athlete, participating in football, basketball and baseball during his high school career. He endured a woodshop-class accident at school resulting in partial amputation of four fingers on his left hand.
After making the varsity basketball team as a sophomore in November, 2021, Morrison suffered severe injuries to his hand working on jointer equipment. His opportunity to resume any sports in the future was in jeopardy, but less than three months later, thanks to his hard work and perseverance, he returned to the basketball court.
During the 2022 football season, he moved from wide receiver on offense to the safety position on defense. His four interceptions against Monona Grove, including one returned for a touchdown, broke the school’s single-game interception record.
Morrison finished the season tied for second in the state in interceptions with eight, three of which were returned for touchdowns. He was unanimously selected to the All-Badger Conference first team and received all-state honorable mention by the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association.
Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin is a proud sponsor of the WIAA Spirit of Sport Award. The organization exists to be a tireless advocate, marketer, and promoter for Wisconsin dairy farmers and to drive demand for Wisconsin's dairy products. The organization represents Wisconsin farm families and works to increase the sale and consumption of Wisconsin milk and dairy products, as well as build trust in dairy farmers and the industry.
For more information, visit wisconsindairy.org and follow on Facebook.
The WIAA, as defined by its Constitution, is a voluntary, unincorporated, and nonprofit organization. The membership oversees interscholastic athletic programs for 517 senior high schools and 48 junior high/middle level schools in its membership.
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