STEVENS POINT, Wis. — Michael Turner of Hartford Union High School has been selected as the 2024 Wisconsin recipient of the Spirit of Sport Award presented by the WIAA, the Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin (DFW) and the National Federation of State High School Associations.

The Spirit of Sport Award program was created by the NFHS and adopted by the WIAA in 2018 in partnership with the Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin. The award recognizes individuals who exemplify the ideals of the spirit of sport that represent the core mission of education-based athletics.

During a WIAA Level 2 football playoff game versus Homestead on Oct. 28, 2022, Turner’s life story was redirected in traumatic fashion. After the junior cornerback made a tackle on a play, the Orioles’ coaching staff observed something abnormal with Turner during a subsequent timeout and removed him from the game.

As the team doctor and athletic trainer were examining him, Turner collapsed and experienced a seizure that required life-saving procedures by the emergency medical technicians on the sidelines and as he was transported and treated at the local hospital. Hours later, he was moved to Childrens’ Hospital, where he underwent emergency surgery two days later to have the right side of his skull removed to relieve pressure on the brain.

Turner was diagnosed with Secondary Impact Syndrome and was placed in an induced coma for 10 days. To further complicate his recovery, he developed blood clots in his lungs. The medical team was able to resolve the blood clot issue, and Turner spent 15 days in the intensive care unit. He spent seven weeks recovering at the hospital. Turner was able to return home after a month of intense rehabilitation therapy, but recovery remained challenging.

Experiencing life without the right side of his skull required 24-hour home care for the two months prior to surgery to have that portion of his skull reattached.

Following his surgery, Turner struggled with his short-term memory. He made tremendous progress and was able to return to school and assist with the football program, cheering on his teammates during practice and games, as well as providing pre-game pep talks and encouragement.

Turner continues to work hard in recovery, and he still experiences memory loss. He is prohibited from participation in sports that would pose a threat of another concussion. He has handled his road to recovery with appreciation for life and a fun sense of humor.

As the Wisconsin recipient of the Spirit of Sport Award, Turner will receive an award sponsored by the Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin. He will be presented with the award and recognized at the 2024 WIAA Annual Meeting on April 24.

In addition to Turner, finalists for Wisconsin’s nomination for the Spirit of Sport Award include Adam Backus of Mishicot High School, Zoe Coder of West Salem High School and Dodge Shore of Hillsboro High School.  

Zoe Coder – West Salem

Coder played softball at West Salem High School and was a manager for the West Salem/Bangor Co-op wrestling program in addition to playing seven musical instruments.

On Oct. 24, 2022 while traveling to a club softball practice, she collided with a truck heading the opposite direction on I-90. She suffered a traumatic brain injury and numerous broken bones as a result of the crash.

After months of rehabilitation at a facility in Colorado, Coder returned home in April of 2023. The toughness she displayed on the softball field resonated through her recovery to relearn how to speak, walk and eat. With her dedication and hard work, she returned to school with her classmates and teammates to graduate this spring.

Adam Backus – Mishicot

Backus is a standout in football and track & field at Mishicot High School, and he played the lead role in the high school musical as well as solo ensemble.

This fall, Backus received Associated Press All-State High Honorable Mention at defensive back. He also earned Wisconsin Football Coaches All-State Honorable Mention as well as First Team All-Packerland Conference honors. The senior team captain in 2023 was voted the team’s Most Valuable Player. He has advanced to sectionals in the pole vault, 400-meter, 800-meter and 1,600-meter relays.

In October of his junior season, Backus suffered a life-threatening injury during football practice. While making a play to defend a pass, he collided with another defensive teammate and was slow to get back on his feet. What appeared to be the equivalent of having the wind knocked out of him was something far more serious.

He sustained a grade 5 splenic rupture and was transported to the hospital. While in the hospital room for observation, his vitals crashed. After he was stabilized and underwent a procedure to repair the rupture, Backhus immediately asked when he could return to the field with his teammates. After rest and recuperation, he returned to participation last fall.

Dodge Shore – Hillsboro

Shore is a senior manager for the boys basketball team at Hillsboro High School, a role he has embraced for six years.

He dreamed of playing college basketball when he was in elementary school, but on July 21, 2017, those aspirations took a different path when Shore and his two siblings were involved in a head-on automobile collision. He sustained injuries that caused him to lose use of his legs and confined him to a wheelchair.

The challenges to fulfilling his dreams did not deter his drive to participate in basketball. Shore has been an active member of the Mad City Badgers wheelchair basketball team for a number of years, traveling around the country participating in tournaments. He recently accepted an offer to play for the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater men’s wheelchair basketball team.

The NFHS Spirit of Sport Award was started in 2008. Including this year, 15 individuals and three teams have been chosen as national award recipients. Nominations for the award are generated through NFHS member state associations and reviewed by the NFHS National High School Spirit of Sport Award Selection Committee composed of state association staff members. A national winner will be recognized in June at the NFHS Summer Meeting in Boston, Mass.

The WIAA Spirit of Sport Award was implemented in 2018 to determine a nominee to be submitted to the  NFHS for section and national Spirit of Sport Award consideration. The Wisconsin recipient is the state’s nomination for the NFHS section and national awards. The following is a list of previous recipients of the WIAA Spirit of Sport Award.

2018 – Bryce Ladwig, Plymouth
2019 – Ashley Stich, Kenosha Tremper
2020 – Adam Szepieniec, DeForest
2021 – Abigail Tuma, Shawano
2022 – Jordan Glenn, Wisconsin Lutheran
2023 – Kenzie Koppenhaver, Kiel

Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin is a proud sponsor of the WIAA Spirit of Sport Award. The organization exists to be a tireless advocate, marketer, and promoter for Wisconsin dairy farmers and to drive demand for Wisconsin’s dairy products. The organization represents Wisconsin farm families and works to increase the sale and consumption of Wisconsin milk and dairy products, as well as build trust in dairy farmers and the industry.

For more information, visit wisconsindairy.org and follow on Facebook.

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Story/Photo via WIAA