When Emily McAnsh learned about the Alpena High School Female Athlete of the Year award as a freshman, she made it a goal that she was going to be the recipient of the award as a senior.
McAnsh saw that dream come true on Thursday after she was named co-Female Athlete of the Year along with Taylor Stepanski at Alpena's Senior Honors Program. Tom Dihle was named the Male Athlete of the Year.
McAnsh, who will run track at Western Michigan University next year, has been a leader on the Wildcats' girls track team in the past few seasons. This year she qualified in four different events for the Division 1 track and field state finals and led Alpena with four first-place finishes at the Big North Championships on Wednesday. Last season she was named the Female Athlete of the Alpena News Honor Roll Invitational.
News Photo by James Andersen
Taylor Stepanski, left, Tom Dihle, center and Emily McAnsh were named the Alpena High School Athletes of the Year at Alpena’s Senior Honors Program on Thursday. Dihle was named the Male Athlete of the Year and Stepanski and McAnsh were the co-Female Athletes of the Year. Stepanski and McAnsh are members of both the cross country and girls track teams and both qualified for the Division 1 state track finals this year. Dihle is a member of the football, wrestling and boys track teams and set a school record for career tackles after starting for the Wildcats for three seasons as a linebacker.
"For me, I knew about it as a freshman and I worked for it. Ashley Hunault and Anna Herman are some of my mentors and I look up to them," McAnsh said. "I saw their names on it and I was like, 'I'm gonna be on that.' I'm so excited that I got it. I worked hard for it."
Like McAnsh, Stepanski has been a stalwart on the track for the Wildcats and has qualified for the track state finals four years in a row, including in four events this year. She holds individual schools records in the 800 run and 1600 run and is also part of 1600 and 3200 relay teams that hold school records.
She will attend Saginaw Valley State University next year with her sister Paige and be a member of the track and cross country teams.
"I didn't even expect it at all, I'm really excited. It's pretty cool to be named Athlete of the Year because it means you've accomplished a lot, so I'm pretty proud," Stepanski said of the award.
While Stepanski has quite an accumulation of individual honors, including two individual firsts at the Big North Championships on Wednesday, she said the most memorable part of her high school career has been seeing her teammates qualify for the state finals.
"This year at regional because it was such close races and we got a lot of girls to state that we never even thought would go," Stepanski said. "I'm really proud of the team this year."
For Dihle, his most memorable moment came as a sophomore on the Alpena boys team when he received a piece of advice from a coach.
"At a track meet, Brian Tippman, the shot putting coach at the time, told me to relax, smile and be happy and I'll go far in life," Dihle said.
The advice served Dihle well in his Alpena athletic career where he was a leader in every sport he played. As a linebacker on the Alpena football team for three seasons, Dihle became the heart and soul of the Wildcats' defense as he racked up over 300 career tackles to set the school record. As a wrestler, Dihle anchored the Wildcats in the 189-pound weight class, often grappling against the best wrestlers Alpena's opponents had to offer. As a member of the track team, Dihle is a mainstay in the field events, especially in the shot put and the discus.
When his name was called, Dihle, who will study criminal justice and play football at Olivet College this fall, thought of all the people who have helped him in his high school athletic career.
"When they called Tom Dihle, I was very happy. I was ecstatic," Dihle said. "Immediately I thought of all my past teammates throughout the years, even going back to freshmen football and freshmen wrestling season. I thought of everyone else that got me to this point and I want to thank them."
Other athletic awards that were handed out at the program included: the Alpena Boosters Club Scholarship, which went to Courtney Holmes and Ryan Wilk; the Army Scholar Athlete Award, which was awarded to McAnsh and Kevin Bey; and the CHAMPS Sportsmanship Award, which was given to Ethan Seigert and Maggie Skiba.