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Spirit of Sport

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Spirit of Sport Award

The WIAA has expanded upon the National Federation of State High School Associations Spirit of Sport Award program to recognize individuals or groups that exemplify the ideals of the positive spirit of sport and represents the purpose of interscholastic athletics. The award is sponsored by the Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin.

A nominee could be a student-athlete, coach, athletic administrator, school administrator, contest official, athletic trainer, volunteer or any others associated with the school’s athletic program.

The recipient of the award can be an individual or group exemplifies the spirit of sport by:

  • Demonstrating exemplary sportsmanship in playing the games as it should be played.

  • Demonstrating exemplary citizenship by exceeding normal expectations in assisting others within theschool or community.

  • Overcoming significant adversity or challenging circumstance to participate or assist others.

Spirit of Sport Award Recipients

2021 Spirit of Sport Award

ABBY TUMA OF SHAWANO NAMED 2021 SPIRIT OF SPORT RECIPIENT

STEVENS POINT, Wis. — Abigail Tuma of Shawano Community High School has been selected as the 2021 Wisconsin and Section 4 recipient of the Spirit of Sport Award presented by the WIAA and the Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin, as well as the National Federation of State High School Associations.

The Spirit of Sport Award was created by the NFHS and adopted by the WIAA in Wisconsin and sponsored by 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.

Tuma, a senior on the Hawks’ volleyball team in 2020, played defensive specialist and setter for a team that compiled a 4-6 record with a schedule limited because of COVID-19 restrictions. They also participated in the WIAA Tournament Series in Division 1.

She was diagnosed with Medulloblastoma, a type of brain cancer, in the fall of her sophomore year. Tuma underwent a six-hour surgery and experienced a number of side effects, including severe nausea over the course of the following 18 months. Following surgery, she was hospitalized for several weeks before she began six straight weeks of radiation and almost a year of chemotherapy.

With constant treatments and daily visits to the hospital, Tuma lost all of her hair and struggled to maintain weight, and she was placed on a feeding tube until the spring of 2020.

Throughout her experience, she maintained a positive attitude and didn’t complain about her fight against cancer. She attended all practices and games – if her treatment schedule allowed – and maintained her academics to be named to the honor roll. She was also honored as the recipient of the Shawano Pride Award.

Tuma completed her cancer treatments last fall, and her MRI revealed she is cancer free. Having completed her varsity eligibility, she is currently playing co-ed club volleyball. She is also a member of the student council and the Future Business Leaders of America. In addition, she volunteers to supervise children during recess at Hillcrest Primary School in Shawano.

The 2021 national recipient of the award presented by the NFHS is Hayden Holton, a former student-athlete at Elmore County High School in Eclectic, Ala. He graduated from Elmore County in 2020 as an accomplished student-athlete, earning academic and athletic honors for his four-year career in four sports.

In September 2016, during the first semester of Holton’s freshman year, his parents were killed in a double shooting in his home. In addition to becoming an orphan, his older brother was charged with the murders, which were later dismissed.

Holton returned to the football field as a junior and earned all-county and all-region honors as a tight end. In addition, his football and basketball teammates voted him team captain and was named most improved player on the baseball team, and he also participated in soccer.

The National High School Spirit of Sport Award was started in 2008. Including this year, 12 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. While the national winner will be recognized June 29 at the NFHS Summer Meeting in Orlando, Fla., the section winners are recognized within their respective states and will receive awards before the end of the current school year.

As the Wisconsin recipient, Tuma will receive an award sponsored by the Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin. She will be presented with the award and recognized at the 2021 WIAA Annual Meeting on May 26. If the Annual Meeting is not conducted because of COVID-19 restrictions, Tuma will be recognized with a virtual presentation that will be posted on the WIAA website.

Finalists for Wisconsin’s nomination for the Spirit of Sport Award included Tuma, Jasmine Bertschy of Valders High School, Michael Krouser of Milwaukee Juneau High School (MacDowell Montessori) and Ben White of Middleton High School.
 

Jasmine Bertschy – Valders H.S.

Bertschy is a four-year participant in cross country and a two-year member of the track & field team who has survived a life-threatening medical condition that has left her legally blind.

In the fall of her sophomore year, she made two trips to the hospital with stomach pain, and on Nov. 5, 2018, she collapsed at home and went into cardiac arrest en route to the hospital. She was intubated to supply life-sustaining oxygen. Doctors discovered a perforation in her stomach, which led to serious complications, including an infection and septic shock. Bertschy spent 12 weeks in the hospital.

The brain damage from the lack of oxygen and infection caused a significant loss of vision. She endured 13 surgeries, multiple blood transfusions and a feeding tube during her recovery.

She returned to practice and competition in the fall of 2019 with assistance of a tether to a WIAA-approved guide runner, who ran alongside her in practices and meets.


Michael Krouser – Milwaukee Juneau H.S. (MacDowell Montessori)

Krouser is a member of the cross country and basketball teams who has endured an anguishing and tragic incident, continuing to participate in interscholastic athletics and engage with the school community.

Krouser’s sister died in December, 2017, after suffering a brain injury and infection following an alleged beating by her mother, who was charged with child neglect resulting in death. He lived with his sister and one other sibling in a home with no heat or running water and scattered with filth, according to news reports.

He has spent the last three years moving to several group home placements. During his senior year, Krouser has lived on his own and continues to engage and participate in school athletics and activities, including serving on the school council.


Ben White – Middleton H.S.

White is the assistant athletic director and activities coordinator at Middleton High School after a 19-year stint as the boys volleyball coach. He was diagnosed with Diffuse Large B-Cell Lymphoma in September, 2019.

White endured a year-long treatment for cancer, which is now in remission. According to Middleton Athletic Director Jamie Sims, not only has White conquered cancer, he has done it in a way that inspires all who comes in contact with him through his “resiliency and dedication to excellence for all students and staff.”

One month prior to his diagnosis, White’s friend and former Middleton Athletic Director Bob Joers was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. The two battled the disease together and was an important part of each’s support system. Sadly, Joers lost his battle with cancer in May, 2020.

White led the Cardinals’ boys volleyball team to over 400 victories, 13 Big Eight Conference titles and 11 WIAA State Tournament appearances. He was named conference coach of the year six times, state coach of the year twice and NFHS regional coach of the year once.


The 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. Organizational initiatives include generating national publicity, managing digital advertising, and driving sales, distribution and trial through retail and foodservice promotions. Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin also supports in-school education about the benefits of dairy and funding for the Center for Dairy Research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. For more information, visit wisconsindairy.org and follow on Facebook.

# WIAA #

2020 Spirit of Sport Award

ADAM SZEPIENIEC OF DEFOREST NAMED 2020 RECIPIENT OF THE SPIRIT OF SPORT AWARD

STEVENS POINT, Wis. — Adam Szepieniec of DeForest High School has been selected as the 2020 recipient of the Spirit of Sport Award and Wisconsin’s nominee for the National Federation of State High School Associations’ award.

Presentation Video

The individual or group nominated for the award exemplifies the ideals and spirit of sport that represent the core mission of education-based athletics and is sponsored by the Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin.

At age 11, Szepieniec was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia. After four months of chemotherapy and 10 days in the hospital, he endured two weeks of full-body radiation treatments. Then in 2014, he received a bone marrow transplant and missed an entire semester of his seventh grade year with a weakened immune system.

Triumphantly, Szepieniec has been without cancer since 2015 and does not require any medication or further treatment for the disease.

He completed his high school career on the Norskies’ football team last fall. He participated and lettered all four years and was a starting defensive back and kick returner on the 2019 Division 3 championship team. In addition to his eight tackles in the title game, his interception in the final moments of the championship game preserved an 8-7 victory. He earned All-Badger North Conference second-team honors last fall.

Szepieniec is also a three-time letterwinner in track, and was preparing for his senior season when the spring seasons were postponed because of concerns for spread of the COVID-19 disease. He was a significant contributor on the 2019 team that captured the conference championship, competing in the long jump, 100- and 200-meter dashes, and the 400- and 800-meter relay teams.

He has also maintained his academic success and has been active in other school and community activities. Szepieniec plays the guitar for the school’s Showband Choir, and he donates his time reading in elementary schools and visiting children in local hospitals. He has compiled a 3.6 grade point average and plans to attend UW-Milwaukee to pursue a degree in engineering.

As the Wisconsin nominee, Szepieniec will receive an award sponsored by the Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin, and he would have been recognized at the 2020 WIAA Annual Meeting in April if concerns and efforts to prevent spread of COVID-19 did not require the meeting to be canceled. He will be recognized later this week during a recorded virtual presentation that will be posted on the WIAA website.

His nomination was advanced to the NFHS Spirit of Sport Committee for sectional and national recognition.

Noah Lambrecht, a former student-athlete at McCool Junction High School in Nebraska, was selected the 2020 national recipient. He was born with a life-threatening heart defect and endured three open-heart surgeries in the first seven weeks of his life. He was then orphaned and left at a Chicago hospital before being adopted by his parents. He required a fourth open-heart surgery and a pacemaker was implanted at the age of eight.

The National High School Spirit of Sport Award was started in 2008 by the NFHS to recognize those individuals who exemplify the ideals and spirit of sport that represent the core mission of education-based athletics. Including this year, 13 individuals and three teams have been chosen as national award recipients.

Nominations for this award were 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. While the national winner is typically recognized at the NFHS Summer Meeting, the section and state winners are recognized within their respective states and will receive awards before the end of the current school year.

In addition to Szepieniec, finalists for Wisconsin’s nomination for the Spirit of Sport Award included Lizzie Kovacevich of Hartford Union High School and Joe Taloff of Muskego High School.

Lizzie Kovacevich

To suggest Lizzie Kovacevich had a challenging year extending from July, 2018 through June, 2019, would be an understatement of epic proportions.

Kovacevich, who had recently completed her collegiate eligibility at Concordia University of Wisconsin, planned to join the Hartford High School girls tennis team coaching staff in the fall of 2018. Those plans and her life were suddenly in jeopardy following a head-on collision with a car driving the opposite direction that crossed through a freeway median strip.

The crash resulted in multiple injuries to each of her extremities. She broke the radius and ulna in both arms, and suffered a broken femur on her left leg. Her right leg also sustained numerous injuries, including a fractured patella and severed patellar tendon, as well as a dislocated ankle, a broken tibia and a broken fibula.

She spent two weeks in the hospital, which included three surgeries that spanned 18 hours in operating rooms. After returning home, she began occupational and physical therapy for up to four days a week. Determined to move forward with her goals, she began the final year of her master’s degree at CUW in a wheelchair, and on August 31, she took her first steps since the collision.

Despite eight surgeries since the crash, her healthy outlook led to her return to training clinicals at CUW and Hartford H.S. In May, 2019, Kovacevich received her master’s degree in athletic training. Following graduation, she landed positions as the Hartford H.S. assistant girls tennis coach and the Orioles’ athletic trainer for Froedtert Hospital and the Medical College of Wisconsin, as well as an Emergency Medical Technician for the Hartford Fire & Rescue department.

The Spirit of Sport Award program in Wisconsin is in its third year. Previous recipients of the award include Bryce Ladwig of Plymouth in 2018 and Ashley Stich of Kenosha Tremper High School in 2019.

Joe Taloff

Taloff has supported high school sports at Muskego High School since his days as a student dating back to 2006. His learning disabilities and social struggles did not deter his hard work, commitment or support of the school’s athletic community.

Enamored with football, Taloff attended all practices, organized equipment, assisted the athletic training staff and cheered on the Warriors on Friday nights. In addition, he led the team in victory cheers after every win.

He continued his role as team manager of the football program for several years following his graduation before also becoming manager of the girls basketball team. Two years later, he began serving as the boys basketball team manager. Taloff assisted with game situations in practice, researching statistics and created his own scouting reports for opponents of the boys and girls basketball teams.

His support for the program led to additional responsibilities, including managing the concession stands, reporting results to the local media, transmitting halftime and post-game events live on Facebook, and serving as president of the booster club.

About Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin:  Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin 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. Organizational initiatives include generating national publicity, managing digital advertising, and driving sales, distribution and trial through retail and foodservice promotions. Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin also supports in-school education about the benefits of dairy and funding for the Center for Dairy Research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. For more information, visit wisconsindairy.org and follow on Facebook.

 

2019 Spirit of Sport Award

ASHLEY STICH RECIPIENT OF 2019 SPIRIT OF SPORT AWARD

STEVENS POINT, Wis. — Ashley Stich of Kenosha Tremper High School has been selected as the 2019 Wisconsin nominee for the National High School Spirit of Sport Award presented by the National Federation of State High School Associations.

Stich completed her high school career on the girls’ golf team last fall. She participated and lettered all four years on the team and qualified for sectionals her freshman, junior and senior seasons. Her nine-hole average was 50 in 2017 and 51 as the team’s #2 player in 2018 following multiple surgeries.

After suffering a series of strokes, Stich was diagnosed with Moyamoya, a rare and progressive vascular disorder that reduces the flow of blood to the brain caused by blockage or the narrowing of the carotid artery. The strokes impaired her ability to talk, count and read. In January, 2018, she underwent brain surgery to increase the blood flow to her brain. 

Following eight weeks of recovery following surgery, she returned to school in March with a modified schedule and participated in limited track and field practice. Stich’s health improved enough during the summer to work on improving her golf game, and she missed just one competition last season due to illness. 

Stich has also maintained her academic success and has been active in other school and community efforts. She is a member of the National Honor Society and was named to the Wisconsin Golf Coaches Association Academic All-State team the past three years. She volunteers as the school mascot, and she is a member of the Renaissance Club, as well as the Archery Club. In addition, she devotes time as a volunteer at a local nursing home.

Stich was recognized and honored for her ability to thrive and persevere despite health obstacles by Kenosha Mayor John Antaramian, who declared July 1, 2018, “Ashley Stich Day.” 

As the Wisconsin nominee, she will be recognized at the 2019 WIAA Annual Meeting on Wednesday, April 17, at the Holiday Inn and Convention Center in Stevens Point.

Her nomination was advanced to the NFHS Spirit of Sport Committee for regional and national consideration. Searra Inman of Niles Brandywine High School in Michigan, a wrestler and soccer player that suffered a severed spinal cord as result of a motorcycle accident, was selected as the regional recipient. Amanda Merrell of Huntingtown High School in Maryland, who lost a leg in her battle with cancer and excels in basketball, received the national Spirit of Sport Award.

The National High School Spirit of Sport Award was started in 2008. Including this year, 12 individuals and three teams have been chosen national award recipients.

Nominations for this award were 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. While the national winner will be recognized June 29 at the NFHS Summer Meeting in Indianapolis, Ind., the section winners are recognized within their respective states and will receive awards before the end of the current school year.

In addition to Stich, finalists for Wisconsin’s nomination for the Spirit of Sport Award included Kalena Clauer of Arrowhead High School, Michael Del Conte of Wausau West High School, Ava Schaefer of Hartford Union High School, David Skogman of Waukesha West High School, and the Athens High School baseball team.


Kalena Clauer
Clauer has persevered through numerous health challenges, including a congenital lung defect and thyroid cancer, to compete for four years in cross country and track & field prior to graduation last spring.

During her sophomore year, she had half of her left lung removed. Following the surgery she spent three weeks overcoming kidney, pancreas and liver failure. However, she continued to compete through all her health issues. 

Clauer was involved in a minor car accident her senior year that prompted a precautionary CT scan which revealed she had thyroid cancer. After surgery and radiation treatments, she returned to participate in the track and field season and receive a team letter.

She has inspired the raising of $5,000 for the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin to benefit child and teen cancer research and awareness. She is a freshman at UW-Stevens Point and is a member of the cross country and track & field teams.

Michael Del Conte
Del Conte battled back from an accident in January, 2017, to return to the Warriors’ boys soccer team in 2018. He was partially paralyzed from the neck down with damage to three vertebrae following the accident, but through rigorous rehabilitation and therapy, he returned to participate and compete.

A 4.0 student, Del Conte is also involved in Wausau West’s vocal music department.

With hard work during a 20-week recovery, Del Conte regained his ability to walk and return to the field. He also served on the Homecoming Court last fall and participated in the ceremony.

Ava Schaefer
Shaefer and her older sister, Alaina, suffer from Primary Hyperoxaluria, Type 1 (PH1), a rare liver disorder. The condition causes a buildup of excess oxalate that produces kidney stones requiring occasional medical attention.

A diagnosis in April, 2017, revealed Schaefer’s kidneys were failing and dialysis was required six times a week. Just prior to Labor Day, she received organ transplants and was discharged a week later. After a month of grueling recovery, she returned home and was able to return to school on a part-time basis later in the fall. She attended school on a full-time basis in January, 2018, and was named Prom Queen in the spring.

She returned to the Orioles’ girls tennis program last fall and advanced with her doubles partner to the State Individual Tournament.

David Skogman 
Skogman collapsed while playing in a non-school summer basketball tournament last summer. He was resuscitated with an AED, and after months of testing, had a defibrillator implanted into his chest as a precaution. 

His success and abilities on the court has garnered Division 1 college scholarship offers, and he was named to the Associated Press All-State Second Team in 2019. 

His leadership and attitude has been witnessed since the traumatic event. Last fall, he spoke to hundreds of freshmen students and families at Waukesha West’s orientation, and sharing his experiences to participants in the Junior Wolverine Youth Basketball Program.

Athens Baseball Team
During the 2018 WIAA Tournament Series, a member of the Bluejays baseball team, Tucker Westfall, died in an UTV accident. He was the son of an assistant coach and a cousin of team members. 

Another player and the team manager were also injured in the accident, which occurred after Athens had won the regional championship and preparing for sectionals. Inspired by the memory of Westfall, the team went on to capture the Division 4 State championship.

# WIAA #

2018 Spirit of Sport Award

BRYCE LADWIG NAMED RECIPIENT OF THE 2018 SPIRIT OF SPORT RECIPIENT

STEVENS POINT, Wis. — Bryce Ladwig of Plymouth High School has been selected as the 2018 Section 4 recipient of the National High School Spirit of Sport Award presented by the National Federation of State High School Associations.

Ladwig, a senior on the Panthers’ football team in 2017, started at nose tackle for a team that compiled a 7-4 record and advanced to Level 2 of the WIAA playoffs in Division 3.

He was diagnosed with bone cancer when he was 6-years old and has undergone multiple treatments and surgeries. Following the treatments and surgeries, his leg failed to heal correctly, and additional operations were required. Ladwig had 23 screws inserted into his leg along with a rod and cadaver bone when he was 10-years old. Within that same year, doctors identified a spot on his lung that resulted in still more medical attention with treatment, therapy and ongoing doctor visits.

Prior to the start of his freshman season in high school in 2014, Ladwig learned he suffered from a rare adolescent disease that was causing the bone in his leg to curve. To correct the condition, surgeons broke his leg in two places, which resulted in months confined to a wheelchair and therapy that sidelined him for his freshman and sophomore football seasons.

Ladwig played football his junior season despite a noticeable limp, but he participated in all the conditioning and drills in practice. He won the starting nose tackle position during pre-season practices his senior season and played in all 11 games.

The obstacles he has faced throughout his childhood has not deterred him from making a difference off the football field. He has served as a volunteer for Project Angel Hugs, an organization that helps those who are less fortunate than others. Ladwig donated the $4000 proceeds from the sale of his steer to the Project in honor of its founder, who died in an accident.

Ladwig is also active in Future Farmers of America and is a youth representative on the Livestock Committee for Sheboygan County.  In addition, he has participated on livestock and meat judging teams, and served meals for the Ronald McDonald House in Milwaukee. He finished runner-up in the Sheboygan County High School Trap Shoot competition and finished in the top-15 at the State Trap Shoot in 2016.

Marissa Walker of Waterford High School in Connecticut was selected the national recipient of theSpirit of Sport Award. She was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma when she was 9-years old and had a massive tumor on her left knee that needed to be removed.

She underwent 10 weeks of chemotherapy followed by “limb salvage” where doctors removed 70 percent of her femur. She endured numerous hospital stays and an additional 18 weeks of chemotherapy. The expandable prosthetic joint and femur that was designed and placed in Walker’s leg had to be adjusted every two to three months as she grew – a total of 23 times. Despite three more surgeries during her high school career, Walker has continued her determination to return to her softball team.

The National High School Spirit of Sport Award was started in 2008. Including this year, 11 individuals and three teams have been chosen national award recipients.

Nominations for this award were 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. While the national winner will be recognized June 29 at the NFHS Summer Meeting in Chicago, Illinois, the section winners are recognized within their respective states and will receive awards before the end of the current school year.

Finalists for Wisconsin’s nomination for the Spirit of Sport Award included Ludwig, Tyler Carroll of Lakeland Union High School, Michael Saxby of Waunakee High School, Jacob Strande of Muskego High School, Katie Walter of Stoughton High School and Erin Connors of Oshkosh West High School.

 

Tyler Carroll

Carroll suffered third-degree burns covering 40 percent of his body, and eight months later, he returned to the football field for the Thunderbirds and played a multi-dimensional role, including quarterback. He received All-Great Northern Conference first team honors and all-state honorable mention recognition after setting the school’s record for all-purpose yards.

Carroll was hospitalized for 28 days in an intensive care burn unit following a bonfire accident on Dec. 4, 2016. He underwent five hours of surgery to graft 90 percent of one leg and 70 percent of the other. He endured months of recovery and rehabilitation with the changing of bandages twice daily for more than two months and therapy for one-to-two hours a day, four days a week.

With the help of at-home tutors, he maintained his coursework throughout his rehabilitation. After missing the entire hockey season in the winter, he returned to school on a limited basis after in the spring and participated in track and field.

Michael Saxby

Saxby was a two-sport athlete, participating in football in the fall and basketball in the winter. On Dec. 27, 2016, he collapsed from a sudden cardiac arrest while playing in a holiday basketball tournament.

The quick response of those in attendance saved Saxby by administering CPR and an AED. His collapse was attributed to Hypotrophic Cardiomyopathy, a condition that thickens the wall of the heart. He had a pacemaker implanted and spent 10 days in the hospital.

Since the incident, Saxby has served as an advocate for the placement of AEDs in schools. At the 2017 WIAA Annual Meeting, he addressed the membership on the importance of adding AEDs and AED training for coaches. He also appeared on a FS Wisconsin broadcast of a Milwaukee Brewers game to promote AED and CPR education.

Although no longer able to play basketball, Saxby was cleared by a cardiologist to participate as the placekicker for the Warriors’ football team, which captured the Division 2 championship last November.

Jacob Strande

Strande concluded his senior season participating on the Muskego boys volleyball team that participated in the State Tournament last November.

His ability to play volleyball, and more importantly his life, was in jeopardy after a golf cart accident during a Spring Break trip in April last year caused a severe head injury. He was airlifted to the hospital where he underwent surgery to relieve pressure and swelling on the brain.

Strande was placed in a medically induced coma for several weeks, and after several brain surgeries, he was brought out of the coma. He had severe weakness in his right arm and leg and suffered mental deficiencies as well. After months of mental and physical therapy, he gained strength and mental stamina.

Five months following the accident, Strande was cleared to begin practicing volleyball. He received all-conference honorable mention and helped his team advance to the State tournament.

Katie Walter

Walter was a member of the Vikings’ girls junior varsity volleyball team. While she hasn’t earned any athletic honors, she has overcome the challenges of high functioning autism to be nominated for the award.

In addition to her involvement in volleyball, Walter is a teacher’s assistant in the high school library, a member of the Key Club, a singer in the school’s acappella choir and a member of the band. She is also and excellent student with a 3.8 grade point average.

While a member of the freshman basketball team, Walter connected on five 3-point attempts in a game. During her senior volleyball season, she was given a standing ovation following her speech on Autism Awareness Night, which was also her 18th birthday.

Erin Connors

Connors is a Down Syndrome student-athlete that was a four-year participant on the girls’ swimming team, which earned her a letter her senior season.

She was honored by her teammates and coach last season by receiving the team’s Natalie Bolin Spirit Award, given annually to the member of the team that demonstrates the best team spirit. In her first year of swimming with the Wildcats, she was awarded the Team Leader Award, presented to the individual that demonstrates team spirit and drive.

In addition to her athletics involvement in swimming, Connors is the manager of the girls basketball team and is a member of the Kohl’s Cabinet, which meets monthly to share ideas with school administration. She is also active with Connected, a club that supports students with disabilities.

Connors has participated in Special Olympics swimming for nine years. She earned four medals at the National Special Olympic Games in New Jersey in 2014.

# WIAA #