Edgar and Marathon High Schools are located just 12 minutes apart if you take Highway 29 and over 200 miles away from MSOE.
As it happens, those two schools have been intertwined for four seasons in the careers of Holly Denfeld and Collin Seubert —the 2013 Gannett Central Wisconsin Media Girls and Boys High School Athletes of the Year.
With Senior Day 2017 last Saturday at the Kern Center, it's all the more remarkable the coincidence of the male and female recipients of the award attending the same school. While they have both had celebrated collegiate careers, they have done it in very different ways.
For Denfeld, the 6-foot forward was able to step right into an undeveloped team, which had won just two games the season prior. She immediately became a go-to post presence and has nabbed all-league first-team honors in each of her first three seasons. She was the 2014 NACC Freshman of the Year and the 2016 NACC Player of the Year.
She's also been honored nationally as an honorable-mention All-American, the recipient of the 2016 Josten's Trophy, a two-time Academic All-American, and she earned a place on the 2017 Allstate-WBCA Good Works Team.
"When Holly got here, our women's basketball program was in a bit of a transitional period," MSOE director of athletics and head men's basketball coach Brian Miller said. "She really came in and helped progress that team to the point where they were contending near the top of the league, which had been unheard of before her arrival.
She has also been able to reach several impressive milestones, as she joined the 1,000-point club as a junior and is closing in on the program's all-time scoring record of 1,790 points. Denfeld also became just the second player in team history to 1,000 rebounds recently, only adding to her legacy at MSOE.
"Holly's internal drive to be the best player she can be is remarkable," head women's basketball coach Katie Nelson said. "Whether it's a practice, game, or even something as small as a team meeting or lifting session, she is focused and always striving to improve. Yet she is also often the first one to encourage her teammates, provide that much-needed team energy or volunteer to take on a task. While her stats draw much-deserved attention, her leadership makes her value to this program immeasurable."
Seubert entered a situation where he was a young player on a veteran-laden team. He picked his spots to contribute but was able to mature within the program. As that happened, he took a larger role in the offense.
"Collin came into a program that was the best team we've had here and was a sixth man right away," Miller said. "He gave us a lot of bench scoring when the defensive attention was on the stars. Over his career, he started to get a lot more attention from the defense and learned to adjust to that."
Playing his sophomore and junior seasons with a pair of 1,000-point scorers in Austin Stueck and Connor Patterson, it was not always that easy. The game plan did pay off as he has taken the reigns of what has become a younger team this season where he is now the senior leader. On the court, that has translated to 18.5 points and 8.2 rebounds per game. The steady approach also paid off, as he joined Stueck and Patterson in the 1,000-point club earlier this week.
"I'd never have expected him to be able to take his game to this level as one of the top few players in the league," Miller said. "On a team where he is the focal point for opposing defenses, it's so impressive. His game has become very complete, where he is able to be effective driving to the basket, shooting the ball and on the glass."
But, before the two began etching their names in the Red & White record books, they were conference rivals familiar only in reputation. Four years as Raiders and that connection is now so much deeper.
"I always knew of Collin Seubert," Denfeld said. "Growing up in the Marawood Conference, you know the names of the all-stars at rival schools, especially when they're as successful as Collin was. We had a common friend kind of introduced us. That was the first time I really talked to Collin (at the Gannett Central Wisconsin Media awards banquet)."
"I didn't know Holly at all really," Seubert said. "I just knew that she was an amazing three-sport athlete. I read about (her attending MSOE) in the newspaper days before the banquet. Afterward I found it extremely ironic that the two winners both chose MSOE. At the banquet, we spoke briefly about the MSOE decision, but didn't have much time to talk."
It was there that the two were able to connect and found out that they both had chosen decided to go to the same school which allowed them to establish a stronger connection.
"Since freshmen year, Holly and I have been great friends," Seubert said. "Freshmen year we both got shots up and worked out regularly in the early morning so we would rebound for one another on occasion. Our friendship has grown every year since then and we have become pretty close."
While basketball is a big factor in what ties the two together, it's hardly something that their friendship is built on.
"The extent of our basketball discussions usually ends at 'hey, good game' or 'way to rebound last night,'" Seubert said. "I think we both respect each other at a high level which is why we rarely talk strategy and give tips."
But, sometimes it still comes down to sports and, though the friendship has grown, conference rivalries don't go away easy.
"We don't really talk basketball very often," Denfeld said, "but I do like to brag about Edgar football every once in a while."