Benzie, Huotari earn ‘Athlete of the Year’


Sports Editor

IRON MOUNTAIN – Iron Mountain’s Taylor Huotari and Kingsford’s Carlee Benzie were honored as the Hometowne Building Supply male and female Athletes of the Year Wednesday evening at a banquet at the Elks Lodge.

Huotari, a multi-sport star for the Mountaineers, was a four-year athlete in football and basketball, and two years each in track and tennis. He was selected his school’s MVP in football and tennis.

He was also an All-U.P. pick for football and basketball, a distinction shared by only five other student-athletes in the U.P. this year.

In the classroom, this individual graduated with honors and was named the recipient of the John Rolando NMU Scholarship worth $20,000.

Benzie was also a three-sport athlete, excelling in volleyball, basketball and track.

Recognized as her school’s MVP in all three sports, Benzie helped lead her volleyball team to its first district title in half a decade on her way to earning the league’s Player of the Year award.

During basketball, she led her squad to a surprisingly deep tournament run as the team’s leading scorer. Named to her league’s all first team, the conference coaches also selected her as the Defensive Player of the Year. Later, she earned a spot on the All-U.P. Class ABC first team.

Just about unbeatable in track events all spring, Benzie claimed conference titles in three events, a regional title in one and finished with the U.P. long jump title.

Benzie was also named recipient of her school’s Hometowne Lumber Athlete Award.

Former Norway High School standout Gregg Noordhoff served as the evening’s guest speaker. Noordhoff, a 1981 graduate, was a four-year football participant for the Knights, playing running back and helping the Knights to consecutive state titles in 1979 and 1980.

Noordhoff went on to letter for four years at Michigan Tech. He was the first ever male winner of the Hometown Athlete of the Year in 1981.

During his remarks, Noordhoff stressed how the lessons learned in athletics translate to everyday life.

“Everything we do in life,” he said. “Career, relationships, the lessons of sports apply everywhere.”

Noordhoff described three key components of the parallels between sports and real life, those being practice, giving it your best and persistence.

“Always push yourself to go further,” he urged the student-athletes in attendance. “Strive to always make yourself better.”

Huotari was the first Iron Mountain male to win Athlete of the Year since Gabe Leonard in 1995. Benzie’s selection was the first for a Kingsford female since Jaime Roberts in 2010.