By John Miller
Photography by Jeremy Petrick Photography
Excellence across the board in the fine arts, academics, and athletics is the name of the game for Alexandria Area High School senior and Triple “A” award winner Will Odland.
In his free time, Odland loves the outdoors. Some of his favorite hobbies include hunting, fishing, being on the lake during the summer, reading, and playing golf.
Math and science have always been Odland’s favorite subjects, and he has a fascination with infrastructure, but one particular class stood out as his favorite in high school.
“College physics is my favorite class I’ve taken,” Odland said. “The labs are really neat and I think it’s an interesting subject because so much of what we do every day relies on physics.”
Even though he always enjoyed the topics of math and science, Odland credits his college physics class for solidifying his decision to pursue a civil engineering degree at North Dakota State University after completing high school.
Robert Brakke, Director of Student Activities at Alexandria Area High School, is confident Odland will be successful at the next level.
“He knows it amps up from high school,” Brakke said. “For a senior, it doesn’t seem like he’s trying to relax at all. He knows it is not an easy future. He has strong academics and continues to work hard.”
While choosing where to attend college, Odland narrowed his choices down to NDSU and the University of Minnesota. Fargo is closer to Alexandria than the Twin Cities, and NDSU has a smaller campus, leading Odland to believe he will get a more personal experience and have a good relationship with his professors, making the Bison a better fit.
“I’m specifically interested in structural engineering,” Odland said. “My ideal job would be one where I could incorporate both engineering and the environment.”
Staying in the Midwest after college will be a priority for Odland. Due to the lack of demand for civil engineers in Alexandria, he envisions finding a job in Fargo or the Twin Cities area, but loves Alexandria and wants to live there again someday.
Sports have been a part of Odland’s life from a young age. His father and grandfather played football, inspiring Odland to do the same. Last season, Alexandria had only one loss during the regular season and made it to the state football tournament, where they lost to Elk River 60-36 in the first round. Despite the loss, Odland said it was a fun experience playing football for a great coaching staff and awesome teammates.
Brakke praises Odland as being an example for other student-athletes. He said Odland cares about people’s well-being and wants the culture of the school to be positive. To Brakke, he makes the school a better place.
Odland is also a member of Alexandria’s golf team. Unlike his upbringing with football, Odland did not begin golfing at a young age. Rather, he took up golf in eighth grade after being consulted by his mother, who played golf for the University of Iowa, and his grandfather.
“I started by taking a couple lessons and really liked it,” Odland said. “I started making the cut for varsity meets as a freshman. It took a lot of hard work and support to become a good golfer. My swing coach Scott Dirck has really helped me not only with my swing, but he’s also improved my mental aspect, by teaching me how to better manage my anger on the course.”
Dirck is more than a swing coach for Odland, but also a role model. He described Dirck as an all-around good person who has taught him important lessons.
Last year, Odland made it to the state golf tournament as an individual and finished tied for 14th place. He hopes to get back there this season, however, the ideal end to his golf career would be if his entire varsity team would advance to the state tournament. He said they have great team chemistry and it would be fun to have the whole team there, claiming they certainly have players capable of making it.
Odland said he wants to continue golfing in college, but remains undecided if he will attempt to walk on to the golf team at NDSU, being his engineering degree is the primary focus.
Off the course, Odland spends time volunteering through the National Honor Society and his church; something he has been doing since eighth grade. He said one event the church volunteers do each year is prepare a Thanksgiving meal for the less-fortunate in the community.
One of his fondest memories doing volunteer work comes from spending time with the elderly. “We once made tie blankets with senior citizens,” Odland said. “Listening to their stories was great, and they were so happy to have us there. Giving them some joy was a neat experience.”
Odland also has musical talent, saying it began when his mother encouraged him and his brothers to be involved in band or choir. Odland chose to join band. He said he couldn’t play brass instruments well, but the clarinet came naturally to him.
One of the most important aspects for Odland is his faith. He credits it for helping him become a better person and athlete.
“My faith is huge to me,” Odland said. “When I’m golfing and have a bad shot or a bad round, I know God doesn’t care; he loves me no matter what. It has also helped me control my anger on the course and interact with my competitors. It makes me more gracious, appreciative, and has helped me realize how good my family and support system are.”
According to the Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL), the purpose of the Triple A award is to honor high school seniors who have excelled in the classroom, athletics, and the fine arts. To be eligible for the Triple “A” award, a student must be a high school senior with a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher, participate in MSHSL-sponsored athletics and fine arts activities, and comply with the MSHSL’s Student Code of Conduct.
“It’s a huge honor to be a Triple “A” winner,” Odland said.
“It is important to be a well-rounded person. When I look around my school, there are a lot of really qualified people who could have won. It’s a great accomplishment, and I’m proud to be qualified in all three aspects.”
Brakke’s description of Odland paints the picture of the ideal Triple “A” winner.
“He has a presence about him where you just want to be around him,” Brakke said. “He is a strong leader who leads by example and is gifted athletically and musically. No matter what others think, he will do what is right.”
A specific “Will Odland memory” for Brakke was when Odland was crowned homecoming king.
“You can see his personality through his smile,” Brakke said. “When he was crowned homecoming king you could see that to him it wasn’t an individual achievement, but that the entire school was being represented through him.”
Being recognized academically, athletically, and artistically as a Triple A winner caps off Odland’s illustrious high school career.