Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Superintendent Robert Indihar
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Lilya nominated for Spirit of Sport Award


Jennifer Sczyrbak

Moose Lake/Willow River Rebels athlete Danny Lilya is the field goal/extra point holder.

Each year, the Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) nominates one recipient from across the state for the National High School Spirit of Sport Award. The recipient could be a coach, student-athlete, athletic administrator, administrator, contest official, trainer or any others associated with the school of the athletic program. This award looks to recognize individuals who exemplify the ideals of the positive spirit of the sport that represent the core mission of education-based athletics. This year, the MSHSL has nominated Moose Lake's very own Danny Lilya.

Lilya is a sophomore at Moose Lake Community School. He plays varsity football where he is the Moose Lake/Willow River Rebels field goal/extra point holder. Lilya is also the manager for the Moose Lake Area Rebels boys hockey team. When he was in seventh and eighth grade, he also participated in track and field, competing mainly in the 800-meter.

Lilya is an active member of several other sports outside of the MLWR Rebels teams. He is the youngest member of the Minnesota Wild competitive sled hockey team in over a decade, where he plays left wing. He has been a three-year participant at the USA Hockey sled hockey development camp in Buffalo, New York. Lilya is even a U.S. Paralympic contender where his goal is to someday represent the USA at the Paralympics. If that wasn't enough, Lilya is also a National Wheelchair Softball Association player with the Junior Rolling Twins, which has taken him to competitions in Baltimore, Chicago and Nebraska.

"He's just an average teenager," says Tony Andres, Moose Lake Athletic Director. Lilya is a great representation that a student with a disability can be a perfectly "average" teenager.

Moose Lake Community School

Moose Lake/Willow River athlete Danny Lilya was nominated by the Minnesota State High School League for the National High School Spirit of Sport Award.

"The wheelchair doesn't define you. If you want to do something, but you're disabled, if you have the right mindset, you can still go out there and do it," Lilya explains. Football Coach Dave Louzek states, "Part of Rebel football has always been including everybody." The NFHS featured Coach Louzek and Lilya in an article about inclusion in November 2016. Lilya's father, Dan Lilya, adds, "The wheelchair kind of becomes invisible ... he is every bit a part of that program as the able bodied athletes who are out there." Just like any other high school athlete, Lilya says, "It's just the best feeling in the world" when he gets into the game.

Coach Louzek responded to Lilya's Spirit of Sport nomination, "Danny has displayed a great deal of courage in overcoming the challenge of participating in high school football while confined to a wheelchair without the use of his legs. As the holder for our extra point/field goal unit, he proves that anybody who is willing to work hard and truly wants to contribute can play an important role on a team and in life."

The National High School Spirit of Sport Award will be conferred to eight section winners as well as one national winner. The section winners and the national winner will be publicized in a NFHS press release, as well as in "High School Today."


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