Six Athena Award winners to be honored May 3

One female senior student from several area high schools has been chosen to represent her school as part of the 41st annual Minneapolis Athena Awards luncheon, May 3.

Among the 52 honorees, those to be honored from the ABC Newspapers coverage area include:

  • Taylor Hedin, Andover
  • Hailee Gifford, Anoka
  • Ashley Pafko, Blaine
  • Courtney Pasiowicz, Coon Rapids
  • Alexis Luedtke, Spring Lake Park
  • Maggie Ewen, St. Francis

Hedin: Breaking an indoor track record in the high jump in her first varsity meet was a precursor of things to come for the Andover senior, who also stood out as a defender on the soccer field.

Taylor Hedin, Andover
Taylor Hedin, Andover

Hedin earned seven varsity letters, four all-conference and is a three-time all-state soccer player to top her list of sports accomplishments.

She’s been one of the state’s most prolific attacking defenders in soccer, finishing third in the state in assists last season.

Hedin said her best sports experience stretched over a long period of time. She’s played with the same friends on the same soccer team since second grade.

She also is a four-time academic letter winner and is a member of the Spanish Club. Hedin plans to continue to play soccer at the College of St. Benedict as a biology major.

Gifford: It’s tough to look back at recent Anoka girls’ athletics and not see a mention of Hailee Gifford. She’s made three state tournament trips, including twice for basketball and another for volleyball, with one more chance at a state appearance with the softball team this spring.

Hailee Gifford, Anoka
Hailee Gifford, Anoka

The 11-time varsity letter winner listed reaching state as her top accomplishment in sports followed by being voted Most Valuable Player of the volleyball team as a libero. Her third accomplishment came early as a freshman starting pitcher on the softball squad.

She’s captained the volleyball and basketball teams and earned six conference awards and two all-section honors, both coming in softball.

Her fondest sports memory came on the basketball court at Target Center, twice. The first time as a sophomore on an Anoka team that won two games before winning four straight section games to reach state. The reward for those wins came in the form of a match-up against current Gophers star Rachel Bannum and her top-ranked Lakeville North squad.

Gifford is a member of the Student Council, STAR program and vice president of DECA in addition to being a member of the National Honor Society, academic letter recipient and Academic All-State honoree for volleyball and basketball.

After graduation, Gifford plans to attend the Carlson School of Management at University of Minnesota pursuing a degree in Business.

Pafko: The nine-time letterwinner earned three conference awards as part of the Blaine soccer, hockey and track teams and said her fondest memory looking back has to be the

Ashley Pafko, Blaine
Ashley Pafko, Blaine

Bengals’ soccer run to the state tournament for the first time in more than a decade as a junior in 2011. Blaine went on to place fourth in the class AA state tournament and won back-to-back section team titles. She was voted the team’s Most Valuable Player, earned all-section team honors and led the state in goals scored as a defender.

Away from competition, Pafko volunteers at Sharing and Caring Hands in Minneapolis.

She plans to major in information technology while playing soccer at the University of Minnesota in the fall.

Pasiowitz: A three-sport standout at Coon Rapids, Pasiowicz became one of the school’s highest-decorated student athletes as a three-time all-state, all-section, all-conference and most valuable athlete just for her

Courtney Pasiowitz, Coon Rapids
Courtney Pasiowitz, Coon Rapids

achievements inside the shot put circle.

She placed second in the state shot put meet last junior, edging Lakeville South’s Jordyn Thornton by three-quarters of an inch (42 feet, 2.75 inches), while Saints junior Maggie Ewen nearly threw out of the arena with a finals throw of 48-04.

As a result, Pasiowitz solidified her place on the Cardinals Wall of Fame with her third straight trip to state.

Overall she’s received 12 varsity letters, captaining volleyball, basketball and track as a senior. She’s earned team MVP honors seven times and six all-conference honors in addition to her individual track accolades.

A member of the National Honor Society, Pasiowitz also was a part of senior leadership, Link Crew and volunteers at Epiphany Church. She also earned Academic All-State honors and will attend North Dakota State University on a track and field scholarship majoring in education and human development and family science.

Luedtke: Spring Lake Park volleyball’s career digs leader (681) also owns the single season record (290) in addition to earning the team Most Valuable Player honors as a junior

Lexi Luedtke, Spring Lake Park
Lexi Luedtke, Spring Lake Park

and senior. She captained the volleyball team as a senior and has seven varsity letters with the chance of an eighth as a captain and three-time starting center fielder.

Luedtke, who said her pre-game chocolate snack helps her perform well, also earned two varsity letters as part of the basketball team, which posted its best record in 13 years this season (15-12).

She is an academic letter winner and among the top 15 percent in her class.

Luedtke volunteers at her church and a neighborhood nursing home and plans to major in nutrition at Winona State University in the fall.

Ewen: The accolades of the track and field and volleyball standout could fill a large trophy case by itself. Ewen, the 2012 Gatorade Minnesota Track and Field Girls’ Athlete of the Year, is a five-time state champion thrower (three in discus and two in shot put) and national champion in both events, in addition to placing third at the Team USA junior world trials.

Maggie Ewen, St. Francis
Maggie Ewen, St. Francis

While representing St. Francis in volleyball court and track and field, Ewen has collected 10 varsity letters (five in each sport), is a four-time captain (twice in each sport), six-time team MVP (three in each sport), 15-time all-North Suburban Conference team member (10 in track, five in volleyball); six-time section champion (track); eight-time all-state (track) and two-time all-state honorable mention (volleyball).

The National Honor Society member was also named to the Academic All-State team in volleyball and plans to throw at Arizona State University in the fall.

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