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Between the end-of-year awards handed out by Los Alamos High School and other local entities, Madison Ahlers felt like there was a void.
And being the Coast Guard Academy student-athlete she is, Ahlers decided to step up and do something about it herself.
This year, Ahlers unveiled the award she created, the Iron Athlete Award. The award goes to the top graduating 3-sport athlete from Los Alamos High School.
The inaugural Iron Athlete Award winner was longtime Hilltopper standout Amy Neal. Neal, who will be attending the University of Tennessee to play women’s soccer in the fall, competed in soccer, diving and track for Los Alamos in 2012-13.
The award winners get their names engraved on a plaque hanging outside the LAHS athletic office as well as a cash prize which is partially funded by Ahlers herself.
Ahlers, who is currently on assignment through the Coast Guard Academy in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., said she had two motivations to start the Iron Athlete Award. First, she felt athletic participation numbers have been slipping at the prep level and wanted to do more to encourage participation at LAHS.
The other was that she wanted students to experience the benefits of participating.
“Basically, not many kids go through high school and know what they want to do,” said Ahlers. “Sports helped me organize my life. I enjoyed those tasks.”
Ahlers graduated from LAHS in 2011. She was the lone 3-sport athlete in her graduating class, having taken part in soccer, basketball and track.
As Ahlers was recognized at the end-of-year Senior Athlete Awards Ceremony, longtime football coach and that year’s emcee Bob Scott made it a point as he introduced her to say playing three sports is something that’s becoming a rarity.
“I remember him saying playing three sports is something everyone should try to accomplish,” Ahlers said. “That’s another thing the Iron Athlete Award is about.”
Ahlers said it wasn’t easy juggling three sports, academics and everything else she had to do during her prep career, but it apparently has become a habit for her. At the academy, Ahlers competes in women’s soccer and both the indoor and outdoor track seasons. On top of those, she has eight hours of schooling everyday — she’s studying mechanical engineering at the academy — along with three hours of military-related training.
“I have to find some time for eating, sleeping and homework somehow,” she said.
This year at LAHS, seven athletes who lettered at least three sports — including her little sister Jordan Ahlers — and Arnoldo Ortiz, one of the top athletic performers at the school, took part in four.
The award is not limited just to high school sports. Those who take part in non-sanctioned high school sports such as hockey or lacrosse, or those who are heavily involved in club athletics as well as prep athletics, may also apply for the award.
For the inaugural award, Ahlers said she received five applications. She said it was hard for her to make a decision as to who would get the award and she asked for input from some of her fellow students.
Participation is a big key for many students applying to colleges, Ahlers said, and athletics can do much for personal growth and learning how to work with others.
She hopes the award will encourage others to attempt a tough but worthwhile endeavor.
“I’m glad the Iron Athlete Award has taken root,” she said. “Hopefully it stays around awhile.”