Students Recognized for Success in Academics, Art, and Athletics

Two juniors receive ExCEL Award, two seniors receive Triple A Award.

Kerui Yang, staff writer

Every year at Edina High School, four students are recognized for their outstanding academic and extracurricular achievements. This year, Triple A winners seniors Sara Park and Owen Gage and ExCEL winners juniors Peter Rock and Emma LaFrenz are being recognized for their incredible work as scholars and members of the community.

According to a news report on the EHS website, the ExCEL award is meant for “juniors who demonstrate academic success, school involvement and volunteer in the community.” After being nominated by his Nordic coach Anne Hinrichs, Rock was honored and shocked that he received the award. However, with so many extracurriculars on his resume, it’s hard to see why he’s so surprised. “I’m in band, and I have been doing that for a while, I’m in the Jazz band, and I was in the Pit Orchestra for last year’s Spring Musical. I’m also in Ultimate Frisbee, which is a club sport, Student Council, and Chinese Club,” Rock said. Additionally, Rock is actively involved in volunteering in the community. In ninth grade, he was involved with the League of Women Voters for a service project. Last year, he volunteered with his Nordic team, at Second Harvest through the Student Council, and at Camp du Nord. Out of all his experiences, Rock thinks that volunteering at Camp du Nord was very interesting and unique as volunteers could  work with a lot of different people and find out what it’s like to take care of younger kids at a sleepaway camp.  

When asked about his motivation for volunteering, Rock said, “I think it’s very important to give back to the community. I’ve been pretty fortunate going through Edina, growing up in a good place. I think it’s very rewarding and beneficial to give time back to the community.” As he looks towards the future, Rock knows that he wants to continue his Nordic and frisbee ventures while maintaining his community outreach.

Emma LaFrenz is the other junior who won the ExCEL award at EHS. As the other ExCEL winner, LaFrenz is super involved in sports and her church. As a student athlete, she plays basketball, volleyball, and is a member of the track team. On Sundays, LaFrenz said she is “super involved in [her] church with Sunday School, [and leads] a group of seventh graders.” After volunteering for four years, she’s found that her motivation stems from her love to help out her church and contribute to her faith. Additionally, “I like kids, so it’s fun to be involved with them,” LaFrenz said.

After reflecting on her years of hard work training as an athlete and encouraging her younger friends at church, LaFrenz commented that “[she] really likes being a part of the team and being active. With church, it’s fun seeing the kids grow up after working with them for so long, so it’s fun seeing them progress with their faith and as people.”

When she learned that she won the award, LaFrenz was surprised, but very happy that she got recognized for her hard work. She’s realized how important it is to her for being recognized for not only her athletic abilities, but also for her dedication to helping people in her community. “I guess [the award is] encouragement to continue with what I’m doing,” LaFrenz said.

With all her dedication to her extracurricular activities, it isn’t surprising that she hopes to pursue her athletic engagement and continue her journey of keeping active with her faith as she progresses further in her academic studies.

The Triple A award recognizes two seniors for their accomplishments in the arts, athletics, and academics. It’s no wonder that Gage won the award, given his participation and success in a wide range of  activities. “I’m on the cross country team, the Nordic team, the track and field team, and I play the tuba in the concert band, and I also do Orchestra winds,” Gage said.

However, you would be surprised to hear some of the funny and interesting reasons as to why he chose the athletics and instruments he now practices. For example, he started Nordic skiing when he was three due to his parents’ wishes and also started the tuba because  it was the only instrument that he could make a sound with. After being involved in the arts and athletics for a long time, Gage continues to find inspiration from his love of music and his ever present challenge to himself to improve and get better at whatever he sets his mind to.

When asked about a piece of advice that has stuck with him throughout his journey during high school, Gage replies that one of his coaches once told him that if he wanted to win the race, he had to run slightly faster for slightly longer than everyone else. This perhaps reflects his success as persistence is key to self improvement and growth as both an athlete and artist. In the future, he hopes to continue cross country when he is at college.

As is typical of Triple A winners, Park is involved in a wide variety of activities as a varsity cheerleading captain, a varsity track and field captain, the vice president and co-founder of GirlUp Edina, a Link Crew leader, a SMATH tutor, and Vice President of Student Council. Additionally, she has been in the EHS Orchestra for many years.

For a student to join many activities and continue to maintain a strong commitment, they must have a special source of motivation. For Park, a big part of that motivation has been social; she views activities as a great way to meet new people. By participating in a wide variety of  activities, Park has been able to meet a more diverse pool of people. “I think that for people in my Orchestra class, I feel like I wouldn’t have really known them unless it was for Orchestra. Therefore, I’m very thankful for that,” Park said. This award has a special meaning to Park as she immigrated to the United States when she was six without knowing any English. “The fact that I’ve come this far, because I came here, and didn’t know any English, and the fact that I’ve come to be this successful at a high school, my parents are really proud of me because in the beginning they were really worried that I wouldn’t be able to adapt to the culture, or even become a leader in this school with Student Council,” Park said.

An important lesson Park has learned through her many extracurricular experiences is that sometimes she has to make the choice between having everyone like her or fulfilling the duties of being a leader. The necessary actions  to grow as a team or the best decisions won’t always make people like her. However, Park understands that in order to improve, she sometimes has be strict or stand by her unpopular ideas.

To those students who are apprehensive about trying new things or struggling to balance their activities and school, “Keep going, see where you end up, because you will surprise yourself,” Park said. She also emphasizes that time management is key to having a successful high school career. Looking back on his own experiences, “I would say that you have to learn to prioritize,” Rock said. “School obviously comes first, and you have to decide what is most important to you. There will be things that you have to sacrifice.”