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MADISON, Minn. - The wood shop at Lac qui Parle Valley High School does more than its share of sawing. But Ryan Giles, an industrial arts teacher, is now part of the best use of a saw he's ever seen.

"That's probably the proudest thing I've ever cut before," said the teacher. "Something I've never seen."

Giles is also the girls' basketball coach and helped pick Alaysia Freetly as this year's team MVP.

At 7:30 the next morning, Alaysia was standing at coach Giles desk, MVP plaque in hand. "She started to get a little teary-eyed and she said, 'Coach, I need to ask you to divide this plaque up into three.'"

Freetly, a high school junior and two-time all-stater in cross country, says her basketball coach didn't believe her at first. "He said, 'Seriously, you want to cut it?'"

Assured by Freetly that she'd given it plenty of thought, Giles grabbed a hacksaw from the shop and commenced with the cutting. The wood and metal plaque, with a team photo under clear plastic, was sliced into three equal parts, exactly as Freetly had instructed.

"I think I earned it, but at that the same time so did they," said Freetly, after the fact.

From the moment the plaque had been handed to her at the basketball banquet, Freetly hadn't felt completely right about taking it. Two other girls, junior Kaitlin Connor and 8th grader Kelsea Lund, had stats just as good as hers. "I felt like I'd be happier if they both got it too," Freetly said.

With the plaque in three pieces, coach Giles called the entire team to his classroom, where Freetly handed out the resized awards.

"I was shocked," said Connor.

"So was I," agreed Lund.

"Everyone was shocked," added Connor.

Shock turned to tears and spontaneous applause.

"It's about as sweet as it gets," said Giles. "Ultimately the proudest moment I've had as a coach."

Connor says she'll hang onto that partial plaque for the rest of her life. "This is always going to be with me. And if I have kids, I'll be like, 'I had one of the best friends ever.'"

Funny, isn't it, how sawing something apart brought everyone together?

It might just be the truest measure of the most valuable person.

"She's just a great kid, and she proved that," said Giles.

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