North Branch Area High School celebrated the success of four students as they signed to continue their athletic careers in college.

North Branch students Maddie Helin, Cora Hudella, Lily Johnson and Paige Peaslee have made their decisions to accept athletic scholarships from different universities. On Wednesday Nov. 10, the athletes signed their national letters of intent.

Maddie Helin

Maddie Helin was supported by her parents, Jay and Kindra Helin, as she signed her national letter of intent. Helin earned an athletic scholarship to play for Mavericks at Minnesota State University, Mankato.

“Maddie has earned a plethora of accolades and honors during her time here at North Branch as she was a three-sport varsity letter winner in the sports of volleyball, basketball and softball,” Vikings coach Katherine Crudo said.

Helin has lettered multiple times, not only in softball, but other sports she has participated in as well.

“For volleyball Maddie has earned four letters, was a part of the 2019 State Team, three All-Conference Academic, 2020 All Conference Honorable Mention athletic, and this year is to-be-determined. During her years in basketball, Maddie has earned three letters, and three All Conference Academic Awards as well,” Crudo said.

Softball has been one of the most rewarding sports Helin has participated in.

“In the sport of softball, Maddie has been a part of two state tournament teams, lettered five times, four All Conference Academic awards, two All conference, All Section, and this year will be to-be-determined, and has been a captain for the Vikings for two seasons,” Crudo said.

Helin has been successful outside of sports and it has certainly showed.

“Maddie has been not only a leader on the field for us but also in the classroom. Maddie holds herself to some of the highest standards in terms of output through her sport that I have ever seen,” Crudo said.

Crudo expressed just how wonderful and important she is to her high school.

“We expect Tilda (Helin’s nickname) this year to lead at the plate and in the outfield for us again, and even though we are not excited to have her go or even think about replacing her, we as a NB softball community are very proud to have been able to call her one of our own,” Crudo said.

At MNSU, the Maverick softball team is Division II. They are at the top of the NSIC each year and find themselves competing for a World Series berth each year.

“Maddie will be going off into great hands under some of the best Division II coaches in the nation,” Crudo said. “Her drive and expectations for herself will fit right in with the Maverick way and we look forward to Maddie continuing to make little ol’ North Branch proud, after, of course, one more season!”

What made you choose Minnesota State University, Mankato?

“I really like the campus and after visiting with the coaches I was like, ‘This is where I want to go.’ Then I toured the academic side, and I was like, ‘Yep, I want to go here,’” Helin said.

What emotions did you feel as you signed the papers?

“I was like, ‘This is crazy that this is already happening.’ I am super excited for it and thankful,” Helin said.

Who would you like to thank for making it to this point in your career?

“All of my coaches, especially Kathy Crudo, she pushed me, and even my club coaches — huge influence,” Helin said.

Paige Peaslee

As Peaslee signed her national letter of intent, her parents Rich and Deedee Peaslee were by her side. Paige will be playing Division II basketball at Winona State University in 2022.

The varsity girls basketball coach, Alison Trampe, was not short of words to express how excited she is for Peaslee.

“It has been an absolute honor and joy to coach Paige and watch her develop as a basketball player the last four years. We are beyond excited for her as she will be the first player from our program since 2016 to play collegiately,” Trampe said.

Peaslee has proved herself to be a determined and successful athlete while accomplishing her studies.

“Paige is an outstanding student athlete, excelling in the classroom and as a multi-sport athlete. Paige was also an Excel Award nominee for her academic and athletic contributions,” Trampe said.

Her success as an athlete has shown greatly in the multiple sports she’s competed in.

“As a volleyball player, Paige was named all conference, all conference academic, state all tournament team, all conference honorable mention, two-time team captain, and offensive MVP,” Trampe said.

As basketball has been her main focus, Peaslee did suffer an injury. She was able to prove her hard work in the sport and did not let the injury slow her down.

“Despite missing all of her junior basketball season due to an ACL injury, Paige was a huge part of our team — attending all practices and games, supporting her teammates and fulfilling her captain role in every way possible while working extremely hard to get back on the court. Our coaching staff and her teammates are thrilled to have her back for her upcoming senior season,” Trampe said.

Peaslee has a list of successes even with missing a whole season.

“During her basketball career, Paige has been named academic all conference, Mississippi 8 all conference, three-time team captain, was voted by her teammates as offensive player of the year, best rebounder, and best teammate. Paige was our leading scorer and rebounder during the 2019-20 season. She was also a member of the Minnesota Heat basketball program where she had a very successful AAU career,” Trampe said.

Peaslee’s hard work and dedication to her team have not gone unnoticed.

“Paige is exactly the type of person we desire to have in our basketball program and is the ideal role model for our younger players. She works hard, is extremely coachable, respectful, humble, and is a dedicated teammate and friend,” Trampe said. “Winona State is not only getting an outstanding basketball player, but an amazing student and person. Congrats, Paige. We are all so proud of you.”

What made you choose Winona State University?

“Winona just really made me feel at home when I went there. I met all the girls and they were just so welcoming. Also, their coaching staff is really smart and have a lot of basketball knowledge and it just feels like home there,” Peaslee said.

What emotions did you feel as you signed the papers?

“Just excited to have it all finalized. Definitely feeling the relief of all the work I’ve put into it. Just happy with all of it,” Peaslee said.

Who would you like to thank for making it to this point in your career?

“Definitely all my coaches along the way because they taught me even more, not even about sports, but life in general. They made me the person I am today. And also my parents and my sister, (Emerson)” Peaslee said.

Lilly Johnson

As Lilly Johnson signed her national letter of intent to become a Minnesota State University, Moorhead, Dragon, her parents Doug and Jamie Johnson were there to support her. She will join the Dragon’s soccer team in the fall of 2022.

What made you choose Minnesota State University, Moorhead?

“The campus is very welcoming and it’s very nice and the coaches were also very welcoming and all the teammates on there have been super nice already,” Johnson said.

What emotions did you feel as you signed the papers?

“Just relived kind of because this is has been something that I’ve wanted to do for a long time, so I finally like did it for myself after all this,” Johnson said.

Who would you like to thank for making it to this point in your career?

“I would like to thank my parents and my coaches and everyone who has just motivated me and kept me going this whole time,” Johnson said.

Cora Hudella

Cora Hudella’s parents, Ed and Patty Hudella, sat proudly by her side during her signing. Hudella will join the Yellowjackets at the University of Wisconsin-Superior in the fall of 2022.

Hudella has accomplished a great deal while participating in track and cross-country.

“She is a six-year letter winner in track and cross-country. She was Mississippi 8 all conference as a freshman, all conference honorable mention as a sophomore in cross-country,” varsity head coach Norman Nagel said.

Among her accomplishments, Hudella maintained the position as captain of the track team during school year 2020-21, and captain of the cross-country team this school year. She was also the girls MVP in 2021 and 2019 in cross-country.

While maintaining a successful sports career, Hudella has succeeded academically.

“She was part of the National Honor Society with a GPA of 3.70,” Nagel said. “She was president of the Student Council and was also in pep band for three years.”

What made you choose the University of Wisconsin-Superior?

“I chose UW-Superior because I really like the small campus, the location of the campus and the majors that they offered. I also really like the team. They were very welcoming when I met them on the tour,” Hudella said.

What emotions did you feel as you signed the papers?

“I was really excited, a little emotional closing out, you know, my high school athletic career,” Hudella said.

Who would you like to thank for making it to this point in your career?

“I would like to thank my coaches, teammates and my parents,” Hudella said.

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