Cloquet High School senior Anja Maijala ran, skied, sang, studied and acted her way to another state title, winning the Triple "A" Award for Class AA girls for 2017. She is the first student ever from Cloquet to win the statewide award.
Established in 1988, the Minnesota State High School League award recognizes and rewards high school seniors from across the state for their achievements in the classroom, the arts and athletics. To qualify for the award, students must have a 3.0 or better grade point average and participate in League-sponsored athletic and fine arts activities. League member schools are invited to nominate one boy and one girl for the award.
Maijala and Jay Boder were both chosen to represent Cloquet in Region 7AA, and Maijala and Michael Sullivan of Hibbing were given the regional title. Among the Minnesota Class AA nominees, Maijala and Eric Wilson of Benilde-St. Margaret's won the Minnesota Triple "A" Award.
Moose Lake's Ally Bode and Caleb Curtiss of Aitkin were the Region 7A winners. Kiera Olson of Fillmore Central and Carter Peterson of Underwood won in the Minnesota Class A honor.
The winners each receive a four-year $1,000 scholarship for a total of $4,000.
"It's really cool, I wasn't expecting to win," Maijala said of the March 25 award ceremony, which took place at a Minneapolis hotel and during halftime of a state basketball championship game.
Maijala's lengthy application included four essays as well as a long list of activities she has been involved with.
While she is known for her sports participation, including Nordic skiing, cross country and track, Maijala also participates in a plethora of non-sports activities. In her senior year she has been active in New Wine, the fall high school play, math team, student council, theater, yearbook, community blood drive, Madrigals choir, senior executive board, Link Crew board and environmental club. Maijala noted that her activities list was thinned in her senior year as compared to past years due to a greater focus on Nordic skiing, which she hopes to participate in during her college years.
Glen Sorenson, Maijala's Nordic ski coach, wasn't surprised, calling his top girls' skier "fearless."
"She's willing to jump into anything," he said. "It's too much sometimes, but she has a huge appetite and the discipline to do it. She doesn't just do all three [arts, athletics and academics]. She works really hard at all three. She knows how to put the time in."
"It's definitely a lot to handle," said Maijala with a laugh. "[Doing all of my activities has] helped me find balance in my life."
She admits that having an early release from school in her senior year has helped created a bit more time for activities. If she finds any free time she fills it with another activity. Maijala said she enjoys her activities so much they do not feel like organized activities.
When she feels tired, Maijala said she still tries to feel positive by surrounding herself with positive people and giving herself pep talks.
"I also naturally smile all of the time," said Maijala. "Even when I feel like I am dying in a race."
Many times Maijala gets around to starting on her homework about 10 p.m.
"I don't sleep much, but I love everything I do," Maijala said from Fairbanks, Alaska, last week, where she was staying for a week to ski.
She credits her parents, Arne and Yvette Maijala, her teachers and her coaches for helping her be involved in so many sports and activities.
As for her future, Maijala is waiting to hear back from a few colleges before she makes a commitment. She is hoping to end up in either Maine or Alaska.
"I want to go somewhere new," Maijala said.