As a sophomore two years ago, Spring Lake Park’s Maddy Wallraff developed an admiration of softball captain Lexi Luedtke. The feeling grew as Luedtke earned the Athena Award, presented to the most worthy female scholar-athlete at each school in the metro.
This spring Wallraff made good on her friend’s premonition by earning an Athena Award of her own.
“She always said, ‘You’re going to win this someday, I know it,’ ” Wallraff said. “I would be like, ‘Yeah, I don’t really know what it is.’ So when it happened I said, ‘Oh, she was right. That’s kind of weird.’ ”
Actually, Wallraff’s Athena selection makes perfect sense. She played soccer, hockey and softball for the Panthers, serving as captain for each sport and earning two most valuable player awards in soccer. She will attend St. Mary’s University in Winona on an academic scholarship. She plans to major in chemistry while playing soccer and softball.
Wallraff spoke with Star Tribune reporter David La Vaque about her accomplished prep career.
Q: What is it like to be an Athena Award recipient?
A: I was really happy, especially because a bunch of my friends play more than one sport and our senior class of girls is super athletic.
Q: Did you always try carrying yourself in a manner that would put you in consideration for an Athena Award?
A: Yeah, I try my best. Playing three sports, I’ve had many captains that I’ve looked up to — some good, some not as good. I always strived to be one of the better ones.
Q: You’ve been a big part of three sports but is there one that has always come more naturally to you?
A: I would say softball because I’ve played that the longest. I think I started in kindergarten or first grade. I didn’t start hockey until seventh grade because most of my friends played. And I didn’t start playing soccer until freshman year.
Q: Why did it become important to you to add hockey and soccer to your plate?
A: Before hockey I played basketball, and I just didn’t enjoy that at all. But all my friends were on the hockey team and we played on the pond every single weekend at the house of one of the girls on the team. They were like, ‘Maddy, you have to play hockey. You’ll be with all of us.’ So I said, ‘Fine, I’ll play hockey.’ But it was an amazing experience.
For soccer, I slept over at another friend’s house and didn’t have a ride home. She was going to soccer captain’s practice so I went along. I got home and said to my dad, ‘I think I’m going to play soccer.’ So I made the varsity team and the coach asked, ‘Where did you play this summer?’ I said, ‘I played softball. I’ve never played soccer before.’ He thought I was a freshman being funny but I was serious.
Q: Does your rise in soccer from a newcomer to a two-time captain give you as much pride as anything you’ve done in high school athletics?
A: Yeah, it does. My coaches and my friends really helped me figure out what’s going on. I got the hang of it but they deserve so much of the credit.
Q: You’re going to St. Mary’s on an academic scholarship. How challenging was it to keep your grades high despite so much going on?
A: It’s tough. I go to school, I go to practice, get home, eat dinner and study. It’s been hard but school and sports mean a lot to me so I wanted to make both of them work. I really like math and science — chemistry in particular — so I didn’t really mind that I had to do it when I got home.
Q: How satisfying is it knowing you’ve always been involved in school activities?
A: It’s really satisfying. I got to know a bunch of girls and that made high school a really enjoyable experience.
David La Vaque