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Well-rounded stars

By Jim Paulsen, Star Tribune, 06/23/11, 11:13AM CDT


Kiesel, Schmidt named 2011 Star Tribune Metro Scholar-Athletes of the Year

Sweat is more familiar than soda. Hanging out is often done in the solitude of a bedroom, with a desk and a computer monitor for company. And the "X" in Xbox often stands for extremely dusty.

For many student-athletes across Minnesota, high school is a lesson in discipline, of making priorities and setting goals, and keeping to rigid schedules. Cruising with friends or letting homework slide in favor of a trip to the mall are simply not an option.

They live by a time-honored American ethos: Success is a byproduct of hard work. And work comes before play.

As such, Breck's Steven Kiesel and New Life Academy's Rebekah Schmidt are the 2011 Star Tribune Metro Scholar-Athletes of the Year.

They were selected from nominations sent to the Star Tribune by athletic directors across the metro area. Together, they represent the best of what high school athletes can be.

Steven Kiesel

Steven Kiesel | Breck

GPA: 3.6, with an emphasis on Advanced Placement classes

Sports: Football, lacrosse

Athletic accomplishments: Led the metro in receiving in 2010 with 94 receptions for 1,250 yards and 13 touchdowns; named first-team all-state by the Associated Press; second in the state in goals scored (47) in the 2011 lacrosse regular season; three-time all-state selection as a midfielder.

Scholastic honors: National Merit Scholarship semifinalist; one of seven MSHSL Triple A (Athletics, Academic, Arts) finalists as a senior.

Other interests: Has played the saxophone since fifth grade.

College: Williams College in Williamstown, Mass., where he will play lacrosse and football. In 2011, Williams was ranked by U.S. News and World Report as the best liberal arts college in the nation.

On balancing athletics and academics: "It's pretty tough at times. Breck is a very challenging school academically. But we have a really great support system, from [athletic director Brett] Bergene on down. Everyone is really understanding."

Making sacrifices: "I've had to choose between sports in the summer. I do summer lacrosse and a bunch of camps. I have had to pass up a lot of time hanging out with friends on the lake, but it's worth it."

The payoff: "Mostly it's the relationships you develop with your coaches and teammates. There are a lot of lessons to be learned with sports."

How sports have helped: "I really like the time I spend at practice. It helps me focus on other things going on in my life. Two hours of working hard helps slow my mind down."

Most gratifying non-athletic achievement: "Getting accepted to Williams College. It's a very exclusive school. I'm very proud to get in there. It was a big moment for me when I heard I was accepted."

Choosing between school and sports: "I've had some very close calls. There have been times when I've had to move lacrosse up a couple of hours to play in a band concert. But Breck is very accommodating of the student-athlete. They are always willing to help you spread things out to complete your requirements and honor your commitments."

Personal philosophy: "My grandma gave me a quote when I was in eighth grade. It goes, 'What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.' ... I've always remembered that."

Rebekah Schmidt

Rebekah Schmidt | New Life Academy

GPA: 3.74

Sports: Softball, basketball, volleyball

Athletic accomplishments: Played on four consecutive Class 1A softball championship teams; named to all-tournament team all four years; three-time all-state selection as a pitcher and infielder; All-Metro pitcher as a senior; scored more than 1,000 career points in basketball.

Academic achievements: National Honor Society; 2011 Athena Award winner; finalist for St. Paul Lions Club Athlete of the Year award.

College: Full scholarship to Drake University for softball.

On balancing athletics and academics: "It's a lot of time management. I like to work ahead and get things done. You just have to be focused and dedicated to school. It becomes a routine. You come home from practice, you eat, you start your homework."

Making sacrifices: "You mean aside from being social? I could have gone and hung out with friends on school nights, but I never considered that option important. I still got to see my friends on weekends. You have to make a choice. You have to do your homework. You can't watch TV."

The payoff: "I got to do things that I loved. I paid my dues. We won state championships. I love playing softball. I wouldn't have done it if I didn't love it."

Family influence: "I learned a lot from my older sister [Danielle]. She played the same sports I did, so it was helpful to have her go through things first. She is a great role model for me."

Most memorable athletic accomplishment: "In my junior year, we were just trying to field a softball team. We had so many girls graduate from the year before. But we got a bunch of girls together to play and went from nothing to winning a state championship. We all worked so hard for our goal that yar."

Proudest academic achievement: "Getting through chemistry! Science is just not my thing. I really had to apply myself. I ended up getting a pretty decent grade, an A-minus."

Commitment to giving: "Our head cook, Linda, supports our softball team so much. She's our No. 1 fan. On Wednesdays, she prepares meals for church families. I liked going in and helping her and serving people."

Personal philosophy: "Anytime I do something, I try to do it well. In pitching or hitting in volleyball or basketball free throws, every rep is important. I always try to do things correctly and remember what I was coached to do."

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