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

By Lois E. Johnson
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Moose Lake senior defends state championship title


Provided Photo

Danny Lilya prepares to throw the shot at the state tournament in St. Paul last weekend.

Danny Lilya, a Moose Lake High School senior and graduate, won the state championship in shot put for the second year in a row and came in second in the discus throw at the state tournament on June 7 and 8.

"As far as I know, Danny is the only individual to ever win a state championship, much less defend his title," wrote Athletic Director Tony Andres in a comment.

Danny is an athlete with disabilities due to a birth defect. He has participated in football, the Minnesota Wild Sled Hockey team, baseball, softball, basketball and track.

Throughout his high school years in Moose Lake, Danny has been a ground-breaker in sports for disabled people that use adaptive equipment.

He played hockey on a sled designed for athletes that couldn't use their legs. His parents took him down to play in an arena in Richfield every Sunday during the winter.

And he had played wheelchair basketball also. His father, Dan, said that he filled in on a team when they were short on players.

"He has participated in track since the seventh grade," said his mother, Sheryl. "He had a special racing wheelchair but no one knew how to use it or maintain it. We found that the chair was broken so we gave it to someone else and he tried other events in track."

Once again, special equipment was needed for Danny to participate in the shot put and discus events.

"A throwing chair was made by one of my relatives," Danny wrote in a comment. "It helps me get full extension on my throws, which is really good."

Because this was new to the coaching staff, they had to learn about the chair, Sheryl explained.

"It was a school-sponsored sport," she pointed out. "They had to figure out how to use the chair. Now that more kids are using those kinds of chairs, they have learned that they need tie downs to anchor the chair, and they let each one complete all of their throws before they move on to the next person."

Danny won the regionals and went on to the state tournament at Hamlin University in St. Paul last year.

"That was a good gauge of the other disabled athletes at state last year," said Dan.

Danny has a lot of upper body strength, he explained, but that is not the case for other disabled athletes. Some lack core strength and another was in a power chair. Dan explained that he didn't have enough upper body strength to push himself around in a wheelchair.

"Danny has developed his upper body strength," said Dan. "He can bench press 230 pounds! I can't do that!"

There were differences noted in training of the other disabled athletes, said Dan.

"The kid that won the discus championship threw it 43 feet," he added. "One of the differences that I could see was the training. He had a lot more techniques than Danny had."

The disabled athletes had just as much team spirit as the able-bodied athletes, Dan explained.

"It was fun to watch them," he said. "Those kids are every bit as competitive as the able-bodied athletes. The able-bodied athletes came over and cheered for the disabled athletes. That was a neat thing to see."

Danny set an all-time state record by throwing the shot 20.7 feet on Friday, June 7, Dan reported. He threw the discus 39 feet. The winner had thrown it 43 feet.

An able-bodied athlete uses his legs and upper body strength to throw, Dan explained. They can throw the shot or the discus 60 to 65 feet.

The temperature kept the athletes from performing their best.

Provided Photo

Danny Lilya is the State Champion in the shot put for the second year. He took second in the discus throw.

"It was really hot this year," said Dan. "It was 93 degrees. None of the athletes were doing as well as they had been. Danny had thrown the discus 40 feet in the regionals. That was his personal best. He was a little shy of his personal best on Saturday. He did the best that he could. We are proud of him."

That tournament was the last high school sports event for Danny.

"It means a lot to me to have gotten first in shot and second in discus," he said in a message. "This was my last meet to close out my high school sports career."

Danny plans to go on to college at the University of North Dakota, where his older brother, Michael, has just completed his first year of studying to be a commercial pilot.

Danny received long-awaited news from the FAA on Monday.

"Danny was accepted into the Air Traffic Control Program at the University of North Dakota," said Sheryl in a message. "He will be the first ever wheelchair student in the program."

Danny celebrated his 18th birthday on June 8.


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