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Joe Armbruster, McKenna Manske are Westby Area High School's top seniors

Joe Armbruster, McKenna Manske are Westby Area High School's top seniors


When Westby Area High School’s valedictorian Joe Armbruster and salutatorian McKenna Manske (and their classmates) start life’s next chapter, they will have an interesting story to tell about how COVID-19 and the coronavirus pandemic affected their senior year.

Valedictorian, Joe Armbruster: During his years at WAHS, Armbruster, the son of John and Carmen Armbruster, earned two all-conference awards for football — one his junior year and another his senior year.

The 18-year-old said his favorite teachers have been Melinda Benzing, who teaches physical sciences and advanced placement chemistry, and Andy Hulst, social studies teacher and athletic director.

Calculus and AP Chemistry have been the scholar’s favorite classes. “I had a lot of my friends in these classes, and I liked the teachers.”

Armbruster said he has favorite school memories from each level of his education. His favorite elementary school memory is going out for pizza in Mr. Peterson’s fourth-grade class, while his favorite middle school memory is playing football at recess “every single day.”

“My favorite high school memory is beating Viroqua for our last football game and beating them in basketball playoffs,” he said.

His role model is his 21-year-old brother Matthew, who is a college junior.

Armbruster said the Class of 2020 has a bright future ahead of them.

“Coming into high school, our class was known as the ‘terrible class,’ with a lot of troublemakers,” he said. “I think that throughout high school, our class proved this belief to be wrong. We have a balanced class with a lot of talented kids, and our futures look promising.”

Armbruster will be attending the University of Wisconsin-Madison for an undecided major.

Salutatorian McKenna Manske

Manske is the 18-year-old daughter of Larry and Tracey Manske, and the sister of Emily, 27, and Kyara, 21.

She is a National Honor Society member, and earned honorable mention for softball and basketball, and made second team all-conference for softball.

The young scholar has enjoyed her teachers at WAHS. “I love all my teachers, but Mrs. Benzing and Mrs. Gilkes were definitely my favorites.”

Manske said her favorite class “hands down” was Kay Bluske’s calculus class. “The group of students in that class were really fun to be around and we have a lot of good memories from that class. Mrs. Bluske loved us.”

Like Armbruster, Mankse has favorite memories from her time as a student at Westby Area School District. “My favorite elementary school memory is of me, Bree and Mandi breaking a lunch table bench by bouncing on it, while my favorite middle school memory is getting to sit next to Mr. Constalie’s desk with Molly.”

She said the high school years were filled with many great memories, but senior-year football games were really fun.

Softball coach Morgan Stenslien has been Manske’s biggest role model. “She’s been my softball coach since elementary school but she has taught me so much more than how to play softball. She’s taught me to be confident and strong, and I’ll be forever thankful for her!”

She is proud of her class and the way everyone has handled the coronavirus pandemic and school closure.

“I know that we didn’t get to end our senior year the way we would have liked to, but I’m proud of all of us for being the people who we are and getting through all of this together. I know we will all continue to overcome obstacles thrown our way, and I wish you all the best of luck in your futures!”

Manske will be attending UW-Madison to study kinesiology with the hope of becoming a physical therapist.

Angela Cina can be reached at


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Vernon County Broadcaster editor

Angie Cina is editor of the Vernon County Broadcaster. Contact her at 608-637-5616.

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