Two local athletes earn props

Playing on a winning team can be an enjoyable experience at nearly every level.

But how about those talented athletes who spend most of their careers on the losing side of the equation?

Dillion Hueckstaedt and Haley Makela of Finlandia University are two athletes who earned their spurs the hard way.

Hueckstaedt just completed an outstanding season for the Lions football team. He came up with 143 tackles from his linebacker spot, averaging better than 14 tackles a game for the winless Lions.

Now, Hueckstaedt did not come from a winning program at Baraga High School.

While the Vikings once had a winning tradition under former coach Jeff Markham in the late 1980s and early 1990s, they fell upon hard times in later years.

Hueckstaedt played on the last 11-man team at BHS, which now is in a co-op program with L’Anse.

He was noted for his hard work, a trait he brought to Finlandia.

His current coach, Travis Wiltzius, said Heuckstaedt was always first when it came to work.

“He had the best work ethic of any player on the team,” Wiltzius said this season. “He was always ready and willing to put in the work to get better.”

Hueckstaedt was named MIAA Defensive Player of the Week after making a combined 24 tackles in a game against nationally-ranked Trine University.

That effort, and several others, should gain him some recognition on the all-MIAA team this season.

Makela, a former Jeffers High basketball standout, was recently selected to the All-ACAA soccer team.

Soccer, you’re probably wondering?

But Makela, who also plays basketball at Finlandia, took up the sport three years ago when lack of numbers became a problem at FU.

“I might have kicked a soccer ball once or twice before that,” she said in a story last year. “But I never played the game before.”

The 5-foot-10 Makela was a natural in goal – often the last line of defense for a Lions team that went winless a year ago.

Still, she managed to lead the league in saves.

This season, playing for a much improved Finlandia team, she posted an 11-4-1 record and had nine shutouts.

The career leader in most categories at Finlandia, she was a sparkplug for her team, according to her coach Jordan Andrews.

“Haley is one of those players who lead by example,” Andrews said. “She shows up ready to practice or play the game …. and she’s a quick learner.”

Dillion and Haley are sterling examples of the kind of athletes the university needs to become successful in coming years.