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Heroic endeavors: White, Koprucki, Steele, Schwartz win Athena Awards

Senior Kristina White was awarded as Woodbury High School's Athena Award winner. Now in its 19th year, the Athena Award is given annually to one outstanding female athlete in the senior class.1 / 4
State champion alpine skier Elizabeth Koprucki earned East Ridge's Athena Award. Koprucki is an eight-time letter winner for the Raptors.2 / 4
Matteson Steele won New Life Academy's Athena Award. Steele earned eight varsity athletic letters and was an All-Conference award-winner on the basketball court.3 / 4
Hill-Murray High School's Sophia Schwartz, a Woodbury native, earned 11 varsity letters for the Pioneers - three in volleyball, three in basketball and two in softball.4 / 4

In Greek mythology, among other things, Athena is the goddess of heroic endeavor.

This week, Woodbury's Kristina White, East Ridge's Elizabeth Koprucki, New Life Academy's Matteson Steele and Hill-Murray's Sophia Schwartz will be rewarded for their stellar work on and off the field.

The four local seniors each were awarded with their school's Athena Award.

Now in its 19th year, the Athena Award is given annually to one outstanding female athlete in the senior class. The Athena is awarded based on excellence and accomplishments in both individual and team sports, throughout the duration of the student-athlete's career. Consideration is given to both one-sport and multi-sport athletes. Athletes are nominated by their coaches and chosen by the Athena Awards Committee, which is comprised of school representatives, parents of previous award winners and business volunteers.

White said she has always hoped to win the Athena Award.

"I feel extremely honored to be selected as Woodbury's Athena Award winner," White said. "It's nice to be recognized for all the work I put in."

White certainly made the most of her time at Woodbury High School.

Most well-known for her skills on the basketball court, White earned a total of 10 varsity athletic letters with the Royals - four in basketball, four in soccer and one in football.

On the basketball court, she was awarded All-Conference three times, All-State honorable mention once and All-Conference honorable mention once. She was a two-time captain and MVP and finished third on the all-time leading scorer list at Woodbury with 1,595 total points. She broke six school records and was a Miss Minnesota basketball candidate.

White will continue her basketball career at the University of Vermont on a Division 1 basketball scholarship.

"We are thrilled that Kristina will be joining our program here at the University of Vermont in the fall," University of Vermont head coach Lori Gear McBride said. "Not only is she a great basketball player, but she is a true competitor and a wonderful young lady."

On the soccer field, she was a three-year starter, team captain, earned All-Conference once and All-Conference honorable mention once.

Also, this past fall, White was one of three girls to kick for the Woodbury football team - becoming the first females to play varsity football for the Royals in school history.

"I know I'm going to miss all my teammates and coaches who have helped me become the athlete that I am," White said. "All the coaches were wonderful and my fellow students were very supportive - even the boys on the football team - it was just a lot of fun."

White also excelled off the field. She was an "A" honor roll student, earned MSHSL Distinguished Academic Achievement Awards and Spotlight on

Scholarship Awards for basketball, soccer and football and academic letter awards. She was a Link Crew Leader, a member of Students Against Destructive Decisions and of the Community Outreach group, a Woodbury Super Fan, a participant in Relay for Life, a youth mentor and church volunteer. White was also selected by the Woodbury staff to attend a multi-high school leadership conference.

"I thoroughly enjoyed my four years at Woodbury High School, because Mrs. Plante, the staff, and administration believe in the three A's - the arts, the academics and athletics - contributing to a great high school experience," White said. "I couldn't have asked for more."

East Ridge's Koprucki

At East Ridge High School, Koprucki is an eight-time letter winner in alpine ski racing and soccer and is one of four state champions in the school's four-year history. Koprucki is an alpine ski three-time All-Conference award winner, a three-time All-State award recipient and the 2013 state champion. In all, Koprucki took first place at 16 Suburban East Conference meets. On the soccer field, she is a three-time All-Conference winner, as well as a one-time All-Conference honorable mention honoree.

"It feels really good to be recognized as the best girl athlete in the school," Koprucki said. " I knew I was in the running for it, but I'm really happy I won. It sums up everything I've done to get where I am from my freshman year to my senior year."

Outside of her school competition, Koprucki recently finished first in the FIS Mid Am Slalom Competition at Lutsen Mountain and competed in nationals for the third-straight season along with the members of the US Women's Ski Team. She has been the Nagy Cup Winner two of the last three seasons, ranked in the top three athletes under age 18 in FIS in the United States.

"I think that if you are really lucky as a coach, an athlete such as Elizabeth comes around maybe once in your career," East Ridge alpine skiing coach Kevin Seipel said.

Off the field, Koprucki has been involved in the cancer walk for life as part of the PWER Alpine Squad helping raise money for cancer research, helped coach younger ski racing programs and volunteered with the Special Olympics. Elizabeth is an Honor Roll student and received eight spotlight on scholarships (3.6 -4.0 GPA during a sports season). She is currently undecided on her post high school plans, but hopes to one day be a Physical Therapist.

"It's difficult to balance everything," Koprucki said. "Sometimes it seems like there aren't enough hours in the day. But, you just need to get your priorities straight - school does come first. If I don't get good grades I can't ski. That's how it's been since I was little. It's hard, but I've been able to do it."

NLA's Steele

At New Life Academy, Matteson Steele earned eight varsity athletic letters - four in volleyball and four in basketball. She was a team captain of the Eagles' volleyball and basketball teams and was an All-Conference award-winner on the basketball court. She also took part in Student Council, was a tutor, a member of the Art Club and Mentor Prayer Group. In the classroom, Steele was a National Honor Society member, was on the school's "A" Honor Roll and won New Life's Leadership, Character, and Christian Example Award, Spanish Award and Bible Award. Steele spent time volunteering at a number of community organizations including: Stone Crest Assistant Living, Vacation Bible School, Meals on Wheels, Feed My Starving Children and at basketball clinics and local churches. In addition, she was President of a non-profit organization called "Buy A Coffee, Buy A Well." She will attend Baylor University next year.

Hill-Murray's Schwartz

Hill-Murray High School's Sophia Schwartz, a Woodbury native, earned 11 varsity letters for the Pioneers - three in volleyball, three in basketball and two in softball. She was the volleyball team captain in 2012 and twice earned All-Conference honorable mention.

In addition to her achievements on the court, Schwartz was a member of National Honor Society, a Student Ambassador and part of the Peer Listening program at Hill-Murray. She received a Gold Service Award for volunteer work, was on Hill-Murray's "A" Honor Roll and earned Academic All-State. She is currently undecided on where she'll be attending college.

White, Koprucki, Steele and Schwartz will be among 39 young women, representing St. Paul city and suburban public and private high schools, to be recognized at an awards ceremony and luncheon, on Wednesday April 17, at the Prom Center in Oakdale. The keynote speaker for the event is Rachel Blount, sports reporter and columnist for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. KARE 11 TV news anchor Randy Shaver will again emcee this year's ceremony.