WMHS announces Triple-A, ExCEL Award winners

In back, juniors Michael Burns and Anna Phearman recently were recognized as Watertown-Mayer High Schools’ ExCEL Award winners this year, and in front, Lexy Heldt was named the Triple-A award winner. (Staff photo by Matt Bunke)
In back, juniors Michael Burns and Anna Phearman recently were recognized as Watertown-Mayer High Schools’ ExCEL Award winners this year, and in front, Lexy Heldt was named the Triple-A award winner. (Staff photo by Matt Bunke)

Senior Lexy Heldt was selected as this year’s Triple-A Award winner and juniors Anna Phearman and Michael Burns were chosen as the ExCEL Award winners at Watertown-Mayer High School.

The awards are given annually to juniors and seniors who best represent the school not just as students, but also through athletics, extracurricular activities and community involvement. Both awards are sponsored by the Minnesota State High School League, and are part of a larger statewide competition where the nominees from each school are submitted to the state, and a number of statewide winners are selected. Those winners are expected to be announced in early February.

The ExCEL Award is given to one junior boy and one junior girl at each school in the state prior to the statewide competition. The award recognizes excellence in Community, Education and Leadership, and is a unique recognition program for juniors who are active in school activities, who show leadership, and who are model citizens.

The Triple-A awards typically go to one senior boy and one senior girl at each school prior to the selection of the statewide awards. However, this year, there is no male recipient at Watertown-Mayer. The Triple-A award recognizes students who have excelled in Academics, Athletics and Arts.

Here is a look at each of this year’s winners.


Anna Phearman

Phearman, the daughter of Scott and Gina Phearman of Watertown, has been active in sports, music, student council, mock trial and knowledge bowl during all three of her years at Watertown-Mayer High School.

In athletics, Phearman is a two-time letter-winner in cross country, and will likely earn her third letter in track and field this spring. In track, she was an alternate for the Royals’ state championship 4×800-relay team her freshman year.

In music, Phearman has been active in band for three years. She has been a section leader for three years, is a two-time honor band attendee, and received excellent ratings in both ninth and 10th grade for solo performances. Phearman also is singing with the school’s choir this year, and was an honor choir attendee. She was also a pit orchestra member for the school’s musical last year.

Phearman has been a student council member during all three years of high school, including her role as the secretary this year. She was a voting delegate at the state student council meeting last year.

Phearman has been on the mock trial team since her freshman year, advancing to the state tournament with the team all three years. This past year, she served as the lead defense attorney. Phearman is also a three-year member of mock trial.

In addition to her leadership roles within the school, Phearman is also serving as one of two representatives from Minnesota’s sixth legislative district on the Minnesota Youth Council. That position comes with an extensive time commitment, and frequently involves meeting with legislators and other state education officials on matters that are important to students in Minnesota.

Phearman has also been involved in numerous other community service activities. She’s a volunteer in her church, a day camp volunteer, a Sunday School teacher, blood drive volunteer, Adopt A Highway volunteer, and a community 5K coordinator.


Michael Burns

Burns, the son of Jim and Becky Burns of Watertown, has been extremely active in the school’s agricultural education department, Future Farmers of America, and track and field and cross country.

Athletically, Burns is a three-time letter-winner in cross country who should earn his third letter this spring in track and field as well. In cross country, he was the captain this year, earning honorable mention all-conference recognition for the second year in a row. In track and field, he is one of the team’s top middle-distance runners, anchoring the 4×800 relay for the last two years and also running the 800 meters.

A National Honor Society member for three years, Burns is also serving as the school’s FFA chapter president this year after serving as treasurer last year. He was the chairman of the FFA’s most recent corn drive, and has served as the chairman of the chapter’s fruit sale for three years.

Burns is also active in the school’s Supermileage team, which finished second in the state last year. He has been on the homecoming committee twice, and has logged volunteer hours with a number of organizations, including extensive work at his church. He also volunteers at Freedom Farm, Feed My Starving Children and has volunteered at Ridgeview Medical Center in the past.

Burns has maintained a cumulative GPA over 3.75 despite a class load that includes several College in the Schools classes.


Lexy Heldt

Heldt, from Watertown, is the daughter of Jodene Heldt and Steve Penegor. Heldt has excelled in all three facets of Academics, Arts and Athletics, making her a strong candidate for the award.

Academically, Heldt has managed to maintain a grade point average of at least 3.7 every quarter despite a rigourous course schedule that has included college level courses both last year and this year. Watertown-Mayer does not have a weighted GPA scale, making her high grades even more impressive. By the time she graduates, Heldt, who is a member of National Honor Society, will have completed nine College in Schools courses through the University of Minnesota.

In sports, Heldt has been a key member of the schools’ soccer, basketball and track teams. Her outstanding play in goal as the soccer team’s goalkeeper has been a huge part of the team’s success the last three years, and she served as one of two senior captains this past season. On the basketball court, her defense and physical play in the post provide a boost to her team, and she also is a member of the school’s track and field team.  Heldt also coaches youth soccer and basketball.

Heldt has also been in band since fifth grade, playing the clarinet and bass clarinet. This year, she was able to attend the Duluth Honor band. Heldt, who has grown up on a dairy goat farm, is also very active in the school’s FFA chapter and in 4-H, winning numerous awards at the county and state fair.