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Bennie Goldfarb

Polyak and Zell receive 2020-2021 Triple ‘A’ Awards

Jan 15, 2021

There are STEM geniuses, inspiring artists and impressive athletes found all across Hopkins, but there are few students who can balance all three — academics, arts and athletics — while maintaining a social life.

Last week on Jan. 9, Eliza Polyak and J.T. Zell, seniors, were chosen as the Triple ‘A’ Award Recipients for HHS, credited to students who are able to balance the three aforementioned “A”s. 

To be eligible for this competitive award, a student has to be a high school senior with a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher at the date of nomination. On top of that, they need to participate in both League-sponsored athletics and fine arts while complying with MSHSL’s Student Code of Conduct.

Only then, if a student was eligible and fulfilled the requirements, could they apply.

The application process begins with a nomination from a teacher or coach. Once a student is nominated, they receive an application from the school. 

The application asks that students respond to four essay questions reflecting on their high school experiences with each “A.” Polyak wrote about late nights study sessions and early morning races, but more vividly the fun she had while managing all three.

“They each challenge you in a different way and that’s what made it exciting,” Polyak said. “I would go from a tough AP class to a more relaxed band class where I got to work with the other side of my brain, and then to Tennis or Skiing practice after school where I got to put physical energy into my sports. I think the balance was really helpful in showing me that I can do anything I set my mind towards if I work hard at it.”

Zell agreed it was a challenge, but time management and staying on top of work proved helpful when balancing Football, Track & Field and his coursework.  

“Throughout elementary and junior high, I was always a part of all three,” Zell said. “I was always held to a high standard and received all the support I needed. When I got to high school there wasn’t a big change in my life.”

After the lengthy application process and the years of hard work throughout high school, Polyak and Zell were contacted via email, and both winners were posted on the Hopkins Royals website.

“I was in the lifetime parking lot at 10 p.m. I had just finished a workout and I checked my email,” Zell said. “It was the first thing I saw. My face lit up with joy, and I got out of the car to run over to my friends to share the news.”

Polyak found out about the award, not through email, but a text from a friend. Later, she checked the website and saw her name on the newest Royal News. 

Last year, Alpine skiers Evan Komschlies and Serena Swenson received the award, and Polyak carried on this legacy in the 2020-2021 school year. 

After winning the award at Hopkins, Zell and Polyak will move on to the 6AA regional Triple ‘A’ competition. If either student is selected, they will compete for the state-level award against other regional winners.

Polyak offered advice to students pursuing the award next year, too.

“Don’t just focus on one area, but instead stay involved in arts, focus on schoolwork, and commit to athletics,” Polyak said. “It would’ve been easier to just focus on tennis and skiing and let everything else become less important. However, I’m glad I stuck with it and it has left me with many more skills and interests.”

Zell concurred, sharing his tip to surround yourself with others who push you. 

“Fall in love with what you do, make friends, make connections, and make memories,” Zell said.” It will always be a grind, but if you have your close group of friends to help support you along the way it will make it much easier. You will have those memories for a lifetime.”

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