No one becomes great on their own. Each year, we highlight just a handful of the youth we deem “elite” in some way, shape or form—often in more ways than one—whether it be sports prowess, academic acumen or artistic fervor. And this year is no different—though we’re adding a twist: These five Plymouth-area incoming seniors have perfected their talents during their high school years with the help and guidance of a variety of mentors, and their inspiring success stories range from swimming championships to programming computer code. Additionally, since this issue marks the 10-year anniversary of Plymouth Magazine, we’ve included Top 10 sidebars with each of our valued students. Read on, and be inspired.
School: Wayzata High School
Mentor: Signe Hensel, Wayzata synchronized and middle school swimming coach
Haley Ruegemer has taken two approaches to swimming at Wayzata High School—she’s competed with both the Trojans swimming team in the fall and the synchronized swimming team in past years. Ruegemer’s achievements in the pool speak for themselves.
Ruegemer has state titles in 12 routine events from synchronized swimming under Trojans coach Signe Hensel. At the state swimming meet last November, she took 10th and 12th in freestyle races for the consolation finals. Ruegemer continued to compete in both water programs until her junior year, when she stepped aside from synchronized swimming to balance out her commitments. (She also swims for the Aquajets swimming club in Eden Prairie).
With the local club team, she competes in meets around the area and at junior nationals in Florida. Ruegemer raced in nationals last March with the Aquajets. “It was a fun experience to travel down there with my team,” Ruegemer says, adding she draws inspiration from her coach with Aquajets, Kate Lundsten, as well as Hensel, her mentor.
Ruegemer wants to improve her times during this senior season, which will help her toward her goal of swimming in college. Academically, Ruegemer enjoys studying history, business and marketing, and thinks she might pursue one of the latter next year. Outside of swimming and school, Ruegemer enjoys hanging out with her friends.
Top 10 things to know about Haley Ruegemer:
- My favorite season is summer.
- I started doing synchro when I was in fourth grade.
- I switched to competitive swimming in 10th grade.
- My favorite event to swim is the 200 individual medley.
- My least favorite event to swim is any breaststroke event.
- My favorite thing to do outside of the water is sleep.
- I am thinking of going into marketing/business in college.
- Favorite color: Blue (the water has gotten to me.)
- Favorite food: Any kind of berry!
- If I could travel anywhere in the world, it would be to Australia. The oceans and coral reefs interest me.
Anthony “A.J.” Adducci
School: Providence Academy
Mentor: Christopher Santer, art teacher
Whether putting a brush on canvas or molding clay with his hands, A.J. Adducci has excelled in studio art at Providence Academy.
“The teachers are awesome and are amazing artists who are always willing to share their knowledge with us students,” Adducci says.
The 17-year-old has obtained community-wide recognition for his work when he received an Award of Excellence in the city’s Primavera Art Exhibition during his sophomore year. His studio art teacher, Christopher Santer, describes Adducci as dedicated and hard working.
“He has excelled in a range of mediums, from oil painting to relief printing,” says Santer, who has artwork of his own displayed around the country. Adducci enjoys Santer’s art classes for the variety of mediums he’s been exposed to. “We are always working on something new so it is never boring,” Adducci says.
Besides visual art, Adducci finds interest in studying history and science. He wants to go on to study engineering or attend medical school. “Our teachers have been amazing and have really brought the material to life, whether it is in a science lab or learning about ancient artifacts in the PA Gallery,” Adducci says.
After school in the fall, he can be found playing varsity soccer for the Lions, which he has done since his freshman year. He is captain of the school’s sailing team and president of the school’s National Honor Society. When he isn’t at Providence, Adducci enjoys time with his family skiing, sailing and traveling.
Top 10 things to know about A.J. Adducci:
- I’ve gone to Providence Academy since pre-kindergarten.
- I love to travel.
- I’ve played soccer since I was 3 years old.
- I love Italian food.
- I love to be on the water, either boating or sailing.
- I am hardworking, loyal and honest.
- I have two big dogs (Nico and Dante).
- I love to ski in the winter.
- My Catholic faith is important to me.
- My favorite movies are The Godfather, Blackhawk Down and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.
School: Wayzata High School
Mentor: Marci Weiner, tennis coach
Kelly Yang has been a successful tennis player for the Wayzata Trojans varsity since joining the team early in eighth grade.
“I started her in the lineup back in 2010 as a No. 2 singles player,” Trojans tennis coach Marci Weiner says. Yang spent only two matches at the No. 2 spot before being moved to No. 1. “It was clear that the No. 1 spot was hers,” Weiner says. “It has been hers for four years.”
Yang picked up the game of tennis early in life, from her parents, when she and her sister, Luna, played the sport with them. Wayzata has benefited from Yang’s work ethic since she took the court as a varsity player.
“I really love playing tennis, and my parents could tell,” Yang says. “They eventually signed me up to play in group lessons at the Life Time Fitness in St. Louis Park. Ever since then, I started private lessons, playing tournaments during the weekends and traveling for national tournaments.”
Yang credits the many people who have helped her become skilled in tennis, from her family to her off-season coach, Justin Jennings. She also has learned a lot from Weiner. “She’s offered all of her support towards helping me improve during the season,” Yang says.
Yang plans to play tennis in college at either a Division I or high Division III program. Why skip Division II? She considers Division III because she wants to choose a school more for the academics, she says.
Yang enjoys math the most out of her subjects is interested in studying the sciences in college. Outside of class, she takes time to volunteer helping the mentally disabled through Hammer programs in Wayzata or helping at the Ridgedale Library. She also enjoys traveling, reading and spending time with friends.
Top 10 things to know about Kelly Yang:
- My favorite sport is tennis; I enjoy playing other racket/paddle sports, as well.
- My family originates from China, so my family and I try to visit all of my relatives living there as often as we can.
- My parents initially trained my sister, Luna, who was on the high school varsity team, and I tagged along with them.
- I really enjoy sketching, drawing and painting. As a child, I went to drawing lessons.
- I like to go to the movies. My favorite movie of all time is The Lord of the Rings trilogy.
- Music has also been a big part of my life. In the past, I played the piano for six years and played the flute for three years in the middle school band.
- My sister, Luna, is eight years older than me.
- I volunteer at the Hennepin County Library and at Hammer.
- I travel the country to play in national United States Tennis Association (USTA) tournaments.
- I have played tennis for six years and been training at St. Louis Park Life Time Fitness.
School: Wayzata High School
Mentor: Tika Kude, computer programming instructor
Ariana Pooley might be Wayzata’s top up-and-coming computer whiz. In her time at Wayzata High School, she started a computer programming club and contributes to the robotics team. She also sets an example among her peers by exploring technological fields, which will likely grow even more as Ariana and her classmates become adults.
“I had always grown up with many computers and laptops in the house, since my dad is a software engineer, and I enjoyed building computers,” Pooley says. She took an AP computer science course at Wayzata taught by Tika Kude, a former software engineer who came to teach at the school full-time.
Pooley became fascinated with apps; she also discovered how much interest her classmates had in the subject. “We were writing programs that could have real-world application,” Pooley says.
Her junior year she formed the Wayzata Programming Group, where participants learn about programming and create their own programs. In addition, Pooley has continued to develop mobile applications.
“Now that I have developed a simple weather application on Android, I am exploring ideas for a music-based game,” she says nonchalantly.
She also participates in the FIRST robotics team, where she works on pre-written code. For Business Professionals of America, she qualified for nationals with her app for the mobile applications competition.
“There are many gifted programmers out there, but Ariana has a rare combination of great technical skill, strong initiative and very good interpersonal skills,” Kude says. “She not only knows how to program, but also knows how to really get along with and motivate people. I believe those qualities will take her far both in technology and in life.”
Pooley has strived to get more girls involved in programming. Several have joined the Wayzata Programming Club. “She is doing an excellent job of showing that girls can and do succeed in computer classes and is hopefully paving the way for more girls to participate in the future,” Kude says.
Top 10 things to know about Ariana Pooley:
- I am a runner-up for the Minnesota Aspirations in Computing Award.
- I attended the Grace Hopper Women in Computing Celebration in Minneapolis.
- I play the piano, clarinet, trombone and guitar, though not necessarily in that order.
- I won second place in the state competition for Business Professionals of America with my android app.
- I play for the Wayzata girls’ rugby team.
- I traveled to Germany as part of my school’s exchange program and will be hosting a German student this year.
- I enjoy art, in particular, painting.
- I was born in England.
- I have two younger sisters and a younger brother.
- I love growing pumpkins in my backyard.
School: Providence Academy
Mentor: Brian Fairchild, soccer coach
Dominik Ruch first appeared on the Providence Academy stage as a middle schooler in the play Everything I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.
But for this senior, much of what he learned was on the soccer field. And he’s applied that to the theater, kickboxing and academics he is also passionate about.
Ruch says Lions soccer coach Brian Fairchild has been his biggest advocate. “I met coach Fairchild as an eighth-grader who didn’t really have any goals or aspirations regarding either soccer or academics,” Ruch says. “After my first year with him, however, I was determined to become both a better soccer player and a better student.”
Ruch will take on the role of being a senior captain this fall. He’s drawn plenty of inspiration from the captains he’s played alongside in previous seasons, too. “I hope to emulate them and continue their legacy this season,” he says.
Last year, Ruch helped the Lions beat perennial Tri-Metro Conference and state powerhouse, St. Paul Academy. He also came away knowing what he wants team life to feel like: “None of my previous teams have felt like a family as much as this one, and I am very proud of everyone’s individual accomplishments, as well as the accomplishments of the team as a whole,” he says.
Somewhat divergent, Ruch also keeps in shape through boxing. He finds that it builds his mental toughness and can relieve stress. “Through it I have learned that no matter how hard something seems, through willpower you can push through,” Ruch says.
Outside of sports, Ruch keeps busy with theater at Providence. He took part in the One Act competition and played the role of Scrooge in A Christmas Carol during his junior year. Ruch played Rooster in the 2013 PA spring musical, Annie.
“The thing I enjoy most about theater is that it gives you a chance to express yourself as different people,” Ruch says. “For example, I am not a sleazy crook who goes to jail every few weeks, and I have no plans of becoming one, but Rooster is. I find it exciting to put myself in that position and react accordingly, because it brings my own personality into the character.”
Top 10 things to know about Dominik Ruch:
- I am from Switzerland—moved here in sixth grade.
- I have lived in four countries so far.
- I have been to more than 20 countries.
- My favorite musical is Les Miserables.
- I cannot stand baseball or anything to do with it.
- I love to cook.
- I am very argumentative. I will debate you on the tiniest of technicalities for 30 minutes or more, simply because I enjoy it.
- I hope to be a lawyer.
- My middle name is Merlin. Yup.
- I love Britain. My favorite city is London, and their TV shows are awesome (examples: Doctor Who and Sherlock). Plus, who doesn’t love British accents?