2024 Wilson Character through Competition Awards Announced

Philadelphia, PA — The Wilson Awards, in partnership with Orienteering USA, proudly announce three winners of our 2024 Character through Competition Awards. Paige Suhocki of Freehold of New Jersey along with Ben Cooper and Greta Leonard, both of Maple Valley, Washington, have been chosen to receive this $1,000 award, which honors the memory of our friend and family member, Iain Wilson. The awards seek to amplify the energy and commitment young orienteers bring to our sport and community. While we are delighted when our awardees are successful in local and even international competition, in a broader sense we hope to encourage the kind of character that communicates to others the joy of competing as a shared endeavor.

Paige has been orienteering since the age of 10 and was one of the youngest volunteers at the World Games at just 14. Lena Kushleyeva of Delaware Valley Orienteering Association shared, “She is an energetic and charismatic teenager whose love for orienteering is extremely catching, to both her peers and to adults.” Lena then spoke to her passion for the sport igniting a similar passion in her teammates and its impact on recruiting new orienteers. Paige writes that the resilience she has built through Orienteering “will not only help my performance but will keep me moving forward toward my higher aspirations.”

Paige’s application mentioned something that Iain Wilson and so many orienteers love, “Orienteering has given me a new appreciation for nature and how fortunate I am to experience it in this way.” We are delighted to see Paige’s enthusiasm is so infectious. Paige plans to use this year’s award to extend her Junior World Orienteering Championship (JWOC) participation by visiting Italy to train and compete. Paige was also selected as 2nd Alternate to this year’s Sprint World Orienteering Championships (WOC) team in Scotland in July.

Ben and Greta continue a long tradition of Orienteering excellence amongst athletes from Tahoma High School in Washington state. Like many Wilson Award winners, they compete for their school’s track and cross country teams while balancing a challenging academic workload and extra-curriculars just like our beloved friend, Iain Wilson.

Asked to share his proudest orienteering accomplishments, Ben spoke about his role as a team captain and his passion for mentoring, planning workouts, course setting, updating maps, and designing courses. Ben also states, “Racing allows me to go beyond my limits and gain valuable experience.” Ben clearly loves mentoring opportunities and finds the sport “provides valuable connections with people.” Ing Uhlin, Vice President of Cascade Orienteering Club writes, “What makes Ben stand out is not just his speed and skill in orienteering, but the time and effort that he devotes to others.”

Greta is known for putting her team and learning first. She has volunteered with Cascade Orienteering Club to coach part of an introductory mini-course for over 50 JROTC cadets. She wrote in her application, “In the process of training and competing, intangible gains are realized that have a greater impact on my life. Orienteering has taught me adaptability, grace, and the importance of a positive attitude. Often, a non-podium finish can result in more growth than a win.” John Brady of Cascade Orienteering Club writes about Greta, “She takes feedback so well, is willing to assess her own weaknesses with an open and mature mind, then applies the feedback to try and improve – she is a Respectful Warrior.” 

Paige and Greta will compete in the Junior World Orienteering Championships (JWOC) in Pilsen, Czechia this summer while Ben is the first alternate on the men’s team. Additionally, previous awards winners Bridget Hall, Alex Merka, Keegan Harkavy, and Thomas Laraia will be competing in this summer’s World University Orienteering Championships (WUOC) with Bridget, Keegan & Thomas also be representing TeamUSA at the World Championships in Scotland (WOC). We wish them all great success!

The committee seeks individuals who have the willingness and ability to see beyond their own individual ambition and spread the spirit that brightens their lives and the lives of those around them. We feel their enthusiasm for the outdoors, for running, for navigation, and for their fellow competitors sets an example for all of us.

Iain’s college roommate and committee member Anthony Belber notes, “What stands out about all the applicants for this year’s award is how invested in the sport these young people are and how much they are growing and learning from their investment. Not only have our award winners given back to their orienteering communities, but they are being shaped and developed into fine leaders and competitors by their experiences in the sport and within those broader communities.”

Applications for the 2025 Wilson Awards will be accepted later this fall. Additional information can be found at  https://orienteeringusa.org/about/recognition/#wilson.

Official Press Release (PDF)