Amherst's Marisa Loken, left, drives past Lexi Brost of Nekoosa during first-half action at the 2011 Sentry Classic.
All year long, we've seen remarkable achievements, on and off the field, from local student athletes. Yesterday, we recognized those young people in a special section of our print editions - and last night, we celebrated with a banquet to honor them and their families.
We're proud to be recognizing 76 of the best high school athletes as central Wisconsin's finest. And special recognition goes to our Athlete of the Year winners, Collin Seubert of Marathon and Holly Denfeld of Edgar.
We love high school sports for lots of reasons. They teach young people to strive for excellence, and to learn the virtues of disciplined work, putting in the time to practice and hone a skill, working together as a team and putting trust in a leader. High school sports in central Wisconsin also help cement the bonds of community - people who grew up here root for their alma mater year in and year out, and in lots of cases follow the progress of their kids and grandkids through some of these programs.
Most of the students who are being recognized today are not going to make their living as professional athletes. (Many will have the opportunity to play in college.) But they will take the lessons they learned with their high school teams with them wherever they go in life. And we're sure they will be well-served by them.
Take a look at the full section to get a sense of the breadth of accomplishments being recognized. But here are just a few highlights that impressed us:
? Marisa Loken, of Amherst, a basketball, softball and volleyball player, said her love of basketball was inspired by her best friend's dad. He died from leukemia when Loken was in eighth grade. "During my basketball career, I have always gone out and played for him," Loken said.
? Eric Zelhofer, of Stevens Point Area Senior High who played basketball, football and baseball throughout his high school career, was driven by the goal to win a state championship. He encourages other athletes to make every day count when playing the sport you love.
? Kasia Wojciehoski, who plays volleyball, basketball, and participates in track and field for Pacelli High School, looked up to the senior volleyball players when she was an underclassman. "(Those seniors) made me be the senior I am today, because I wanted to be someone that the underclassmen could look up to and go to for advice."
These young people are future leaders in our communities and wherever their paths take them. We can be proud they grew up here.