Wildcats News · 2021 WHS ExCEL Award Winners Announced

Congratulations to Waconia High School Juniors, Kaethe Ludford and Mason Machtemes on being chosen as the 2021 WHS Minnesota State High School League ExCEL Award recipients!

Sponsored by the MSHSL, ExCEL (Excellence in Community, Education and Leadership) is a unique recognition program designed exclusively for high school juniors.

Students who are active in fine arts and/or athletic activities, who show leadership qualities, and who are model citizens are eligible for the award. To be eligible for the ExCEL Award, students must be a junior in high school; making satisfactory progress toward graduation requirements; participate in a League-sponsored fine arts and/or an athletic activity; hold a leadership position in their school; work voluntarily in their community; and meet MSHSL General Eligibility Requirements.

Kaethe Ludford, daughter of Christine and James Ludford is a caring, energetic and motivated student leader in our WHS school community. Kaethe excels in a variety of academic courses, clubs and fine arts activities as well as having been voted the team captain of one of the newest Wildcat sports programs, the Girls’ Tennis Team.

Kaethe honors continue to mount as we recognize her fine arts participation. In band, Kaethe’s musical prowess earned her First Chair, Clarinet honors as a freshman and was selected to the Wind Ensemble the past two years. Additionally, Kaethe has earned a position in the top jazz band and varsity show choir band playing the piano. As a Color Guard team member, Kaethe was named  Rookie Advisor for her junior season. The awards continue as Kaethe steps on the stage; as a featured dancer as part of her Freshman year fall musical performance she was chosen for the prestigious State Spotlight Showcase honors.

Kaethe is an active student leader in a variety of school sponsored clubs including: Student Council, International Club, International Thespian Society and the Arts and Culture Club. She also serves as a valued member of the spring play crew and the WHS National Honor Society, all while maintaining a very impressive 4.0 GPA! In addition to leading by example in our school community, Kaethe’s caring heart reaches out to our greater Waconia community as she volunteers teaching Sunday School, serving at church camp, Feed My Starving Children and ringing for the Salvation Army. Additionally, Kaethe recorded a piano Christmas recital for the local nursing home, created a scarecrow for the Halloween festival and chaperoned a Courage Retreat, in all volunteering more than 200 hours! Kaethe’s statement in regards to her Christmas recital project, “I have had so much fun creating this for people…the idea of being able to contribute positively to society…by bringing Christmas love to those who have been missing love this year…I hope it brings a smile to their face.” is just one example of how this strong, compassionate student leader is going to continue to make a positive difference in the lives of all she comes in contact with!


Mason Machtemes, son of Clark Machtemes and Kathy Oliphant, is a very humble and kind student leader in our Waconia school community. A hard worker in the classroom, in his activities and in his volunteer efforts, Mason is an outstanding role model for others to emulate.

Mason’s love for music shines as he serves a variety of leadership roles in our music department. Mason is the lead drum set player in the top audition WHS Jazz Band and in the Varsity Show Choir Band, Mega Watt, and serves as the Mega Watt captain. Mason is also a leader in the WHS Marching Band, Concert Band, Select Chamber Choir, Wind Ensemble and Pep Band earning letters for the past two years. Other honors also include being named to the MN Honor Jazz Band in 2019 and earning the WHS Marching Band Rookie Advisor Award in 2020. Additionally, Mason is an extraordinary pianist, passing the MMTA Level 5 Theory Exam for Piano with distinction.

Mason’s hard work and commitment also extends to his participation as part of the classroom, the WHS Football Team and the WHS Track & Field Team, where his efforts are vital to team morale. Mason has been named to the honor in each of his semesters at Waconia High School and works diligently to maintain a 3.5 GPA. Volunteering is another area in which Mason excels. Not only does the Waconia community benefit from his community service efforts which includes cleaning up ditches and volunteering in his church’s nursery or during service, but his positive impact extends to Milwaukee, WI where he has served as part of a mission trip. Mason shared that the mission trip, “changed the way he looks at the world, and that he hopes that he can continue to grow and learn through these experiences.” Mason’s stated belief that, “empathy or the ability to feel is one of the most important traits a person can have” is indeed, a sign that he has already started down an extraordinary path to growing into a fine young man.