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Willmar Cardinals' Best of the Best announced

Apr. 16—WILLMAR — Each year, they're referred to as the "Best of the Best."

Cullen Gregory and Avery Quinn were both major winners Sunday night at the Willmar High School Senior Athletic Awards ceremony.

Gregory and Quinn received the Willmar Noon Lions-Debbie Negen Memorial Awards as the Cardinals' male and female athletes of the year, Willmar's best of the best.

Gregory is a nine-time varsity letter winner and was a captain in football, boys hockey and baseball. He's also Willmar's 2024 Minnesota State High School League Triple A Award and earned the 3x4 Cardinal Commitment Award as a three-sport athlete for four years. Along the way, he also earned Central Lakes Conference Performer of the Week honors, was an All-CLC honorable mention four times, an all-conference and all-district honor mention, a three-time all-district award winner, a four-time captain, a two-time excellence award winner, a two-time team MPV, a two-time senior scholar athlete and an all-state academic selection.

"Cullen is the eptiome of what high school athletics is about," said Willmar football coach Jon Konold. "He has always been about the team and what is best to make the team successful. From throwing touchdown passes as a quarterback or a punter or catching the game-tying touchdown versus Totino-Grace, Cullen's versatility and athleticism are at the top his class."

In hockey, Gregory was a four-year regular, leading the Cardinals in scoring his freshman year.

"He was a two-year captain and will definitely be missed in our program," Willmar boys hockey coach Jamie Hagen said.

In baseball, Willmar head coach Tom DeBoer shared a personal story about Gregory.

"I had the privilege of watching Cullen grow up as a young kid living two houses down from me to being a sophomore playing valuable innings on a Central Lakes Conference championship team, to a student in my classroom and now a senior and captain on our baseball team," DeBoer said. "Cullen is the vocal leader on our team and a player that young kids in our program look up to. Thank you, Cullen, for embodying what it means to be a Cardinal athlete."

Quinn, meanwhile, is a 13-time varsity letter winner in girls hockey, girls soccer and track and field. She is a six-time captain and earned the Cardinal Commitment 3x4 award. She has been an All-CLC honorable mention three times, all-conference, a three-time CLC Performer of the Week and a two-time senior scholar athlete. She's also a two-time state participant and is Willmar's MSHSL Triple A Award winner.

"Avery is always striving to get better both on and off the ice," Willmar girls hockey coach Eric Setrum said. "Her hard work and willingness to do what was needed to help the team was evident every day, leading by example on and off the ice."

In hockey, Quinn was a two-time captain and five-time varsity letter winner who appeared on two state tournament teams.

Willmar girls soccer coach Madeline Wertish also offered praise.

"Avery is a unique force (as) a student-athlete," Wertish said. "She carries herself with great pose on and off the field. It was evident she was a strong leader and competitor very early in my time here at Willmar."

Cardinal track coach Connor Haugen has known Quinn a long time.

"The word that comes to mind when I think of Avery is 'steady,'" Haugen said. "Avery grew up next door and I've known her since she was very young.

"From a meticulous child to now being a young woman it has been a joy to see her grow up. Avery was twice a captain for track and field, a multi-time participant on the section team and true team state teams and a steady presence in our throwing practices."

The Willmar Noon Lions-Debbie Negen Memorial Award and Scholarship goes to the Willmar's best of the best. Each winner receives a $1,000 scholarship in honor of Negen. The award was created in 2023 to honor her memory. She was a life-long Willmar Cardinals fan along with her husband Jerry.

There is a look at other award winners from the ceremony:

The True Grit Award male winner is Matt Mohr, a six-time letter winner who participates in football, boys basketball, boys golf and track and field. He was all-district in football and a two-time senior scholar athlete.

The award has been given out since 1983 and it recognizes student-athletes for their heart, desire and character. They are individuals who elevate the performance of everyone around them and excel in the little things that often don't show up in box scores. They are extremely coachable and put their team first.

The True Grit Award female winner is Sophia Quinn. Quinn is a 13-time varsity letter winner who has participated in cross-country, girls soccer, girls hockey and track and frield. She has earned CLC Peformer of the Week Honors, is a two-time all-conference honorable mention and a two-time senior scholar athlete who has participated at the state level three times.

Lyndi Koosman and Ramero Trevino are the 2024 Jim Helin Memorial Award winners.

The award goes to a male and female athlete who demonstrate outstanding character and morals. They possess a friendly demeanor and have superior leadership qualities.

Koosman is a 12-time varsity letter winner in cross-country, gymnastics and track and field. She's a three-time CLC Performer of the Week, a three-time All-CLC honorable mention and an eight-time all-conference selection who has qualified for state eight times and been a two-time all-state award winner.

Ramero is a nine-time varsity letter winner in football, wrestling and track and field. He's a two-time All-CLC honorable mention, a two-time all-conference selection and a four-time CLC Performer of the Week. He's a captain who was all-district in football and a two-time state participant in wrestling.

Isaac Zelaya-Velasquez and Rebecca Dawson are the male and female winners of the 2024 Lane Erickson and Dean Anderson Memorial Awards and Cardinal Pride Scholarship winners.

Zelaya-Velasquez is a nine-time varsity letter winner, a two-time boys soccer captain and a team MVP as well as a three-time state participant who earned second-team all-state honors.

Dawson is a 14-time varsity letter winner in cross-country, girls hockey, girls soccer and track and field. She has earned multiple individual awards including hardest worker, the True Grit Award, the offensive player of the year, the rookie of the year and is a senior scholar athlete as well as a four-time All-CLC honorable mention, a three-time state alternate, a two-time state qualifier and a three-time captain.

The Lane Erickson and Dean Anderson Memorial Awards are given to top senior athletes who demonstrate high academic standards, leadership, high character, a love of life and exhibit a pursuit of dreams and goals in athletics and in life. Each recipient receives a $500 scholarship.

Dylan Staska and Maycee Gustafson are the Dean Anderson Memorial Award winners.

Staska plays football, boys hockey and baseball. He is a six-time varsity letter winner, a 3x4 Cardinal Commitment athlete, a two-time captain and a two-time scholar athlete. He has earned CLC Performer of the Week honors and named all-conference. He has earned all-district academic honors twice and was named all-district and all-district honorable mention in his career.

Gustafson is nine-time varsity letter winner, competing in girls basketball, golf and girls soccer. She is a two-sport captain who earned CLC senior scholar athlete honors twice and was academic all-state as well. She has earned defensive player of the year honors, All-CLC honorable mention three times and CLC Performer of the Week.

Rebecca Dawson also won the Herb Brooks Award. It's given to a senior hockey player at the state tournament who strongly represents the values, characteristics and traits that definited Herb Brooks, the former Miracle on Ice USA hockey coach.

Dawson helped lead Willmar to the state Class A girls hockey tournament, helping the Cardinals to a Section 3A championship, a 21-9 record and a sixth-place state finish. She had five goals and 14 assists. She also works with the Willmar Parks and Recreation Department.