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United South Central students are Triple A winners | News, Sports, Jobs


Merideth Klingbeil and Collin Van Cleave are the United South Central 2022 Triple “A” Award winners. Both are seniors at the school and have excelled in their studies while still staying active in the arts and athletics. They each plan on continuing their education at Bemidji State University after high school.

Merideth Klingbeil and Collin Van Cleave have been named the 2022 Triple “A” (Academics, Arts and Athletics) Award recipients at United South Central High School in Wells.

Perhaps, for these two seniors, the award should be renamed the Quadruple “A” award with the added “A” standing for “Active.”

Both students were surprised and honored to be decided to represent their school and they will now compete against students from other schools for the Sub-Section “AAA” Award.

Here is the background on USC’s two Triple “A” Award honorees.

Merideth Klingbeil

Klingbeil is the daughter of Brian and Lisa Klingbeil of Wells. She has one sibling, a twin sister, Madison.

“I have been in the USC school system for all of my education,” Klingbeil comments. “I knew about the award and decided to apply. I thought it would be cool to win.”

Klingbeil stays very busy with her studies and has seized the opportunities provided through extracurricular activities at USC.

“In the fall I ran cross country. I used to play basketball but I am currently the manager for the girls’ basketball team,” she notes. “In the spring I will play softball and be on the track team.”

But, athletics are not the only thing occupying this senior’s time.

“I love being involved with anything having to do with the theater,” she adds. “I am in the Drama Club, have been in musicals, performed in the One-Act plays and I enjoy improv.”

One might think Klingbeil would not have time for any more activities than those listed above. But, wait, there is more.

“I am the student director for all of the plays. I am in concert band, marching band, pep band and jazz band,” she says. “I am also on the Math League team and in the Mock Trial Club, the Journalism Club and am a member of the National Honor Society.”

And yet, she still finds time for academics, also.

“I am currently taking early childhood development, calculus, advanced biology and English, all for college credit,” Klingbeil mentions. “I also have a personal finance class and a PSEO (Postsecondary Enrollment Options) psychology class.”

She does not hesitate when asked about her favorite activity.

“Definitely the arts,” Klingbeil answers. “I like everything about performing, whether it is building sets or setting the mics. I love the singing and the piano accompaniment that goes along with the shows.”

Though the arts might be her favorite, she still has an appreciation for the benefits of sports.

“Sports provide people with a great way to stay active and healthy,” Klingbeil offers.

She began playing basketball in third grade and was able to start band in fifth grade.

“I had to wait until I was in seventh grade to get involved in theater at the school,” Klingbeil explains. “It was the soonest I could join.”

She plans on attending Bemidji State University after her high school graduation.

“I plan on majoring in English with the goal to become an English teacher,” Klingbeil comments. “I have always wanted to be an English teacher. Being in the theater has helped me become more comfortable being in front of people. I am also planning to be active in band or choir and opera theater if it is available.”

Collin Van Cleave

Van Cleave is the son of Josh and Erin Hansen. He has three step-siblings and one half-sibling.

“I was born in the state of Washington and moved to Prior Lake when I was in third grade,” Van Cleave explains. “My family moved to Wells when I was in fifth grade but then my stepfather, who is in the Army, was stationed in Japan. So, I was in Japan for two years and moved back to attend school at USC beginning in eighth grade.”

Van Cleave became aware of the Triple “A” Award through a friend of his who was a previous winner of the honor.

“Jacob Billings received the award at USC two years ago,” Van Cleave mentions. “He encouraged me to”go for it,“and so I did.”

Van Cleave is a three-sport athlete who has participated in football, wrestling and track and field.

“I am also in the spring and fall clay target leagues,” he adds.

He also enjoys music and stays busy as a member of many different bands.

“I am in the concert band, the pep band and the jazz band,” Van Cleave, who plays the trombone, shares. “I enjoy being able to make music with my friends.”

Like Klingbeil, Van Cleave is also taking a number of college-level classes.

“My college classes are in early childhood development, modern US history, advanced biology and English,” he says. “I also have an intro to business class, which is an online course.”

He notes that although being in band and participating in sports are different, there are also some common threads between the two activities.

“Whether it is band or sports, they both require teamwork to be successful and you have to push yourself mentally and physically,” Van Cleave comments. “Learning to work together towards a common goal is a helpful thing to learn.”

Asked if he enjoys the arts or sports more, he smiles and lets out a small laugh.

“Well, I should probably say the arts since I plan on becoming a band teacher,” he responds. “But truthfully, there is nothing like Friday night lights and being on that football field.”

Van Cleave says he got an early start in sports when he began wrestling, playing T-ball and flag football at a young age.

“I got my start in band in the seventh grade in Japan when I was attending the school located on the Army base,” he shares.

Van Cleave also plans on continuing his education at Bemidji State.

“While I am working towards my music education degree, I plan on doing everything in band that is possible,” he states. “In addition to the various bands, I would love to be in a trombone quartet.”

USC’s Triple “A” Award winners have some final advice for fellow students who are managing a busy schedule.

“Prioritize the things you need to get done and communicate with your teachers,” Klingbeil says.

Van Cleave agrees and offers a further explanation.

“There are times when your extracurricular activities are going to take up a great deal of your time.” he states. “Make sure you talk to your teacher when those times happen because they will work with you to help you keep up. And, as a student, you have to be willing to sacrifice some of your free time to get things done.”


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