GOOSE LAKE — Six Northeast seniors were honored Tuesday for their achievements athletically and to share where they will extend their athletic careers.
Four will be headed to the NCAA Division III Iowa Conference while two will stay close to home and attend Ashford.
The following half-dozen Rebels were recognized: Baylie Parson (Ashford softball/business administration); Tierra Hildebrandt (Dubuque track & field/psychology); Hannah Kilburg (Loras volleyball/undecided); Nick Wall (Wartburg football/biology); Blake Dierks (Loras wrestling/athletic training) and distance runner Christian Knutsen (Ashford track and field/pre-med).
Each student-athlete presented about a three-minute speech on their athletic journeys through high school and how much time is needed on and off the playing field to become successful.
Parson led off the speeches, and said: “Without my mom’s hard work, I know I wouldn’t be standing here today. Academics have been a main focus, and that has been proven this year. It’s a nice feeling to know I won’t be drowning in debt when I leave college.”
Parson was named team Most Valuable Player last season as well as team player of the year. Parson hit .433 in 2014, which was good for third on the Rebels behind Aleenah Marcucci and Jayna Farrell. Parson was second among Northeast returners in doubles (14) and also had a triple and a home run.
Hildebrandt started receiving accolades since she was an eighth-grader. She has been to the state track meet in four events, and coming up this weekend, Hildebrandt will compete in her fourth Drake Relays in the 400 meter relay.
“As my junior year came to an end, I never really thought about running track at the collegiate level,” Hildebrandt said. “It wasn’t until a week before my senior year began that I visited the University of Dubuque ... from that day forward, I knew that if I was going to compete in collegiate track, it would be in a Spartan uniform.”
Hildebrandt holds this season’s 10th-fastest time in the 100-meter dash in Class 2A at 13 seconds. She also holds a top-30 statewide time in the 200, which is also the fifth-quickest in 2A (26.48).
Kilburg doubted her ability to play volleyball because of her willingness to run cross country in the middle years of her high school career. But, because she enjoyed it so much, she stuck with it.
“While volleyball has been my favorite sport, if someone were to tell me a year ago that I would play college volleyball, I would have told them they’re crazy,” Kilburg said. “There were many times where I thought about giving up on volleyball and dedicating myself to cross country. My love for the game got me through the season and motivated me to work harder in the offseason.
“At the end of my junior year, I had nine kills, which I think was pretty much last on our team,” Kilburg added. “My senior season, I led the team in kills. With that being said, hard work pays off.”
Kilburg led the Rebels in 2014 with 83 kills.
Wall chose Wartburg for the recent success of the football program, especially last season. The Knights lost to Wisconsin-Whitewater in the Elite Eight of the National Division III tournament.
“I just want to be a part of that,” Wall said. “Once I heard about it, I was impressed about it. The coaching staff showed interest, and I like that a lot.”
Wall also liked that there was a local connection with Wartburg Coach Rick Willis being a Camanche native.
Wall was a 2014 Herald All-Area first-team recipient in football and All-Area second-team in basketball this past season. Wall had 985 receiving yards his senior season with eight touchdowns. He will also play in the All-Star Shriners Game at the UNI-Dome in July.
Dierks likes the challenge of competing in the Iowa Conference as a wrestler. He’ll feel right at home in Dubuque, as he’s worked out with the Duhawks every Monday night since the season ended.
Dierks finished the season with a 41-5 record, including recording his 100th career win in December at the Saber Invitational.
“I knew that if my grades weren’t good enough, I wouldn’t be able to wrestle, so without academics, most of this wouldn’t be happening,” Dierks said. “I know it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I couldn’t pass up.”
After Knutsen made his announcement Tuesday, he went out and won the 3,200-meter run at the Clinton Gateway Classic Relays (11:05.43). He’ll be spending the rest of his track career not too far from where he competed.
“For me, I can remember long drives over this winter season over to Sterling, Illinois, to get a workout so we could be ready to jump into the season we’re in now,” Knutsen said. “Dedication is a must. I wasn’t originally looked at because I wasn’t one of the fastest athletes. ... I would be seen as a mediocre runner compared to other runners in the state. Most of the money came from what my mind could do, not what I can do on the track.”