Erickson, Mahannah earn Triple 'A' honors | Buffalo-Hanover-Montrose Schools
March 4, 2024

Erickson, Mahannah earn Triple 'A' honors

An ability to thrive in the classroom, on the playing field and in artistic endeavors calls for more than just natural talent. It also takes hard work, determination and a positive attitude.

Buffalo High School seniors Claire Erickson and Nolan Mahannah exemplify those traits, as evidenced by their selection as the school’s Academics, Arts and Athletics Award winners for 2024.

The Minnesota State High School League honor, also known as the Triple ‘A’ Award, recognizes students who stand out in diverse areas. Despite sustained success, their selection for the award took both students by surprise.

“It was completely out of the blue,” said Erickson with a laugh. “There are so many people that are deserving of this award, so I was surprised to be the recipient. But it’s absolutely a great honor.”

“I didn’t expect it at all,” agreed Mahannah. “All the hard work is paying off. Getting recognition for that – it’s cool to be noticed.”

Claire Erickson
Erickson holds a 3.89 grade point average despite taking numerous College in the Schools courses. Last year she earned an academic excellence award for outstanding performance in social studies, and this year she received a state/regional prize through the Jewish Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas for an essay in response to the book “Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor” by Yossie Klein Hallevi. 

As for favorite subjects in school, Erickson said she favors the humanities.

“I love English because there isn’t just one answer. There are always things to discuss and argue, which I think is entertaining,” she said. “I love reading papers and writing papers and peer editing.”

On the soccer field, Erickson is a four-year letter winner, three-year captain, two-time all-conference defender and the first player in program history to receive all-state honors. Though her senior season was cut short by injury, she has embraced the rehab process as a learning opportunity, and her opportunities on the field are not limited to the school season.

“Soccer has been my main thing for the past four to six years,” Erickson said, explaining that she stopping competing in track and field after her ninth-grade year to focus on her favorite sport. “I play club outside of school for a national team, so we’re always traveling to different states for showcases. We practice five times a week. I just love it. It’s great.”

While perhaps best known for her accolades on the field, Erickson said one accomplishment that stands out to her is singing a solo during the choir’s solo and ensemble contest last year.

“I thought of every single possibility to back out of it, but I did it and it went really well,” she said. “As far as things that are memorable, that was big because it was about persevering through something I didn’t necessarily want to do.”

Erickson has played piano for eight years, and sings in the concert choir as well as the select BHS Singers ensemble. She also sings on her church’s contemporary worship music team.

In a letter of recommendation for the Triple ‘A’ award, BHS special education teacher and assistant soccer coach Carrie Schmitt wrote that “Claire is an exemplary student-athlete as well as a person of tremendous character and leadership skills.” Schmitt added that Erickson is “humble, selfless and respectful to all. It is a result of her determination, positive energy, and commitment to others that she is a leader on and off the field.”

Asked about her keys to success, Erickson said that strong relationships with her peers, teachers and coaches motivate her to succeed.

“I think it’s important to give 100 percent in everything I do because people are taking time to help me succeed, so I owe that to them,” she said.

Some of Erickson’s favorite teachers include BCMS science teacher Ben Watkins, and former BHS science teacher and coach Rachel Busch. In fact, she plans to major in elementary education at Gustavus Adolphus College and minor in psychology as a result of the impression left by her instructors.

“Teachers have been some of the most influential people in my life,” she said. “All my teachers have been awesome. They’ve been great role models. I love kids, and I’m a very relationally driven person, so to be able to lead a group of students and be a positive example in their lives is something that is super important to me.”

Erickson also plans to play soccer and sing in the choir at Gustavus. She is the daughter of Brad and Torri Erickson.

Nolan Mahannah
Mahannah seeks out classroom challenges, maintaining a 4.0 GPA while taking 10 College in the Schools courses alongside his other coursework over the years. His favorite subject is math.

“It’s solving problems, like a game almost, but not a super fun game,” he said with a laugh. “Well, it’s fun to me. I like when there’s one answer and you try to find it. It’s not English where there are so many possibilities.”

On the artistic side, Mahannah serves as a writer and photography editor for the award-winning Tatanka yearbook, a demanding position that requires extensive time outside of regular school activities.

“My commitment to the yearbook is just as important as my commitment to my academics and sports,” he wrote in his Triple ‘A’ application. “A yearbook is one of the only things that high school students will have their entire lives to reflect on their youth.”

In the athletic realm, Mahannah played football his senior season, is a member of the basketball team that made it to the state tournament last year, and also plays tennis in the spring. Over the years, basketball has been his primary interest.

“I’ve played basketball since I was 5, so seeing that build up pay off (with the state tournament appearance last year) was really cool to me. I’m grateful for that. That would be the biggest accomplishment that comes to mind for me,” he said.

Mahannah said his keys to success include good organization and an even-keeled mindset. He also credited his parents, Brad and Sara, with setting the conditions for him to succeed in all areas of student life.

“My parents have helped me with everything, just supported me, never put too much pressure on me,” he said. “I think not having that pressure has allowed me to thrive.”

As for influential teachers, Mahannah also named Ben Watkins, who has served as his tennis coach and Fellowship of Christian Athletes group leader. Another is head basketball coach Josh Ortmann.

“He’s probably had the biggest impact on my personality, just making sure I become a good person,” Mahannah said. “He always tells us that his end goal is not about wins and losses. He hopes we’re good at basketball, but he wants to create great men in the world and hopefully good dads someday. I think that’s pretty cool.”

Ortmann wrote a letter of recommendation for Mahannah and characterized him as “an individual with many natural gifts, a hard-working, able student/athlete who embodies everything you would want as a role model in our community.”

He added that Mahannah’s leadership traits, including a high level of motivation and persistence, set him apart in the classroom and in competition.

“His mature stature, values, and demonstration of intelligence and leadership are qualities that guarantee success both in and out of the classroom or competition arena,” Ortmann wrote.

Next year Mahannah plans to attend the University of North Dakota to pursue a career in commercial aviation. 

“It’ll be fun,” he said. “Aviation kind of runs in my family, so I felt like it was a good choice. I’ve loved airplanes since I was little.”

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