Cloquet grad wins national scholarship


November 26, 2021

Next month, Cloquet grad Benjamin Bauer will be winging his way to Colorado, where he will formally accept the National Student Athlete Scholarship, and read the essay that led to his latest award, this one from the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrator Association (NIAAA).

It won't be the first time Bauer has stood in front of a room of dignitaries to read his work. The last time was three years ago, after Bauer won the BestPrep essay contest for his response to a prompt by fellow Minnesotan and New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, from his book "Thank You for Being Late." Bauer and two other Cloquet students traveled to the Twin Cities, where Bauer read his essay to 800 business people and Friedman himself, whom he also met.

Despite that early writing award, Bauer is probably better known for his athletic skills in Cloquet. He made it to State three years in a row as a Nordic skier - he was an all-state skier in 2020 and 2021 - and competed on the Cloquet boys cross country and track teams. In total, Bauer earned 12 varsity letters. He also received the Lumberjack Award for grit and dedication to track and field. That describes Bauer well. Never the loudest on a team, he leads by example. As a skier he was often the first one out after snowfall, and put in more far hours on the trail and other training than required by the coaches.

Bauer first had to win at the section level (in the Midwest region) to be considered for the national student athlete award. He and Brianna Brasko of Florida are this year's national winners; the NIAAA selects one male and one female student-athlete, based on their "notable scholastic, leadership, sportsmanship qualities and community involvement."

Bauer said he was very surprised to learn he won the national award, and he's excited to fly to Colorado and read his essay at the National Athletic Directors Conference in Denver next month.

Now an engineering major at the University of Minnesota Duluth, Bauer was on the A honor roll throughout his high school career. He ranked in the top five in his class academically and was one of two speakers at graduation in May. He was also active in the National Honor Society, a trumpet player in the pep band, a junior and senior executive board member and in the fall musical three times. He was in mock trial the past two years, going to state as a junior. Bauer has also been in the Boy Scouts since he was a youngster. He volunteered with the Cloquet Ski Club, helping teach younger kids how to cross country ski.

The Pine Knot News sat down with Bauer to talk about his latest award-winning essay, and how he managed to keep the balance between academics and athletics during his high school years.

What do you think helped you win this prestigious award?

Bauer: The essay was a big part of it so I'm really grateful that the Cloquet English department is super great with making sure that you have those skills in your life. I've been blessed with that. They also ask you to write down your extracurricular activities, your community and volunteer activities. I thought it was a good mix, which I liked.

You were pretty darn busy in high school, so I bet that was a long list. Do you think you achieved a decent balance between sports and academics and life?

Bauer: I think so. I can look back at high school and say that I don't think I really have many regrets. I know I did the best that I could and that's how it is. I always tried to do the best that I could at sports, but tried to put school first too. That ended up just being a lot of late-night studying, putting in the work to be able to do both academics and sports.

I do love the sports that I'm in, but I do think that there should be a large place for the arts, music, band, fall musical - all those things were very important to me as well. I think that you can gain just as much or more from those as you can from sports.

I'm guessing you don't play a lot of video games?

Yeah, not much. Yeah, the one- or two o'clock nights were spent studying, not video gaming. You have to think what's more important, playing on your phone or watching TV or playing video games, or is it that grade or sport? I also grew up being outside quite a bit so I tended to do more things outdoors.

How did you choose your sports?

When I was younger I tried basketball, it wasn't really my thing. The reason I joined cross country was because I'd heard of the family atmosphere; it was never because I was like, "oh, I'm gonna be a great runner" or anything. It was always just because I thought it would be fun to be around those people. Nordic came because I was in cross country and I heard the same thing about the Nordic team, that it's like a family. You're all in it together.

How did you avoid getting burned out?

Bauer: My parents always said just to do the best that you can. Especially with athletics, just have a fun time with that. It's not always about being the best or winning, the main thing is always to have fun with whatever you're doing. Don't make it a chore. Athletics-wise, I wouldn't be in the sports that I was if I didn't love doing them.

This past year (in 2020) me and my little brother William went skiing at our grandparents when there was hardly enough snow; you could still see the grass through the snow. We just thought that was super fun because then you could say that you've been skiing in October.

What did you learn from sports versus the arts?

I think they both taught me perseverance. You've got to just keep going in life. You can't give up. Also balancing practice time and studying. Especially in high school here, we try to do everything. But you have to find time for all of it. I think that's good to try a little bit of everything and see what you'd like to do.

What would you tell somebody who's coming into high school?

Just try out whatever you think would be fun, and if it doesn't work out, it doesn't work out, but you should try. Just try your hardest at everything, especially that first year. I know it seems like you have a long four years of school, but try your hardest that first year because it all builds off of everything. I think it's easier to be involved in multiple different groups in different activities than the movies portray.

Really working hard toward whatever you want to do is the key. You can excel at anything, it's just how much effort you put into it.


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