First and foremost, any St. Michael-Albertville coach will tell you, these are a set of student athletes. The six kids signing letters of intent to advance their playing careers to the collegiate level Wednesday in a special ceremony at the high school have all earned spots on honor rolls and racked up other academic honors throughout their high school careers.
Still, it’s their athletic accomplishments, combined with a dedication to school, that will move them to different areas around the region next year.
“These are six kids who have a real passion for what they do, and it’s that passion that has led to their success. We’re very proud not only of the athletes they are, but of the people they are in our school,” said STMA Activities Director Brian Benson.
Signing Wednesday were:
Mitchell McKee, wrestling, University of Minnesota: McKee’s story, of course, is well known. The senior has two state championships under his belt and can join a select group of Minnesota wrestlers with three if he’s successful this season. He’s also the captain of a team looking for its first big school title this year, after coming up just short last season against Apple Valley.
Kenny Gudmonson, lacrosse, Missouri Valley: Gudmonson, who has been a key cog in the varsity club team, is the first to earn a collegiate scholarship from STMA on the boys’ side.
Kitri Zezza and Sydney Tracy, girls basketball, Minnesota-Crookston and South Dakota State (respectively): Zezza had a breakout season last year for the Knights as a quick, tenacious guard who is known for her defense. Zezza was a key piece in a backcourt that led the Mississippi 8 Conference in steals as the Knights marched to third place in the state. A post player for the Knights and coach Kent Hamre, Tracy will most likely be a small forward for the Jackrabbits, who are a Division I level powerhouse in the Upper Midwest, having made NCAA appearances a regular habit over the last few seasons. Tracy often serves as Hamre’s lockdown defender inside, and the senior post will be expected to lead the squad in rebounding again, as the Knights reload for the 2015-2016 campaign.
Anna Nietfeld, volleyball, University of Mary (Bismarck): Nietfeld was a central piece to a Knights volleyball team that finished among the top three the conference before falling at Section Tournament this season in its first year with a new coach. The Knights outside hitter has a “cannon,” said coach Jill Anderson, and has worked hard on placement when it comes to putting away her kills.
Whitney Perry, track, South Dakota State: In sprints and jumps, Perry was simply a force for the Knights track team, and has one more season left to go. She’ll be a huge fixture on relay teams for the Knights, something she’ll most likely be asked to do at the collegiate level, as well.
Other STMA athletes who have committed to schools but did not sign letters today (for early commitments):
Isaiah Weston – University of Northern Iowa, football.
Lucas Jeske – University of Minnesota, wrestling.