June 3, 2014
The Big Ten is celebrating 100 years of the Medal of Honor in 2014. Minnesota will announce its 2014 male and female winners on June 4. Until then, we will look back at some previous student-athletes who were bestowed with the Big Ten Medal of Honor, which is one of the most prestigious conference awards in college athletics. The Big Ten Medal of Honor was first awarded in 1915 to one student-athlete from the graduating class of each university who had "attained the greatest proficiency in athletics and scholastic work." It was the first award in intercollegiate athletics to demonstrate support for the educational emphasis placed on athletics and was acclaimed throughout the nation, and in particular by the NCAA "as one of the significant gestures yet made in college sports."
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B1G Medal of Honor Memories: Rochele (Goetz) Williams
Anne Schleper received the Big Ten Medal of Honor award in 2012, marking the first Gopher women's hockey player to receive the award. A four-time All-WCHA honoree, Schleper played for the Gophers from 2008-09 to 2011-12. As a senior, she led the Gophers to the program's fourth national championship. Schleper was honored as the WCHA Defensive Player of the Year and a first-team All-American as a sophomore in 2010 as well. In Feb. 2014, Schleper earned a silver medal with Team USA at the Winter Olympic Games.
GopherSports.com: What have you been up to since you finished hockey at the U?
Anne Schleper: Right after I graduated, I was drafted to a women’s professional hockey league and moved out to Boston. I played that whole year, and then I trained and prepped for the Olympic trials the following summer. After making the final 25 with USA Hockey, we have a residency program from August up until the Olympics. Throughout that, I was able to stay on the team through four different cuts, down to 21.
This past February, I had the opportunity to travel to Sochi, Russia, to compete in the Winter Olympic Games. Since graduating, my life has all been hockey. I do private lessons, and I work some hockey camps on the side for some extra money. This summer, every week I’ll be working different camps. That keeps me very busy, but I really enjoy it because it helps grow the game and it helped me get where I am today. I want to give back to the younger generation. I love seeing them develop the passion I have for the game of hockey.
GS: What were the Olympics like, and what was it like to share the ice with some former Gopher teammates?
AS: I’m still speechless. It was amazing. We built this bond as a team, and we all had this amazing experience of being able to represent our country. It’s definitely an honor. It was also great having my family over there. They’ve been supporting me since I grew up.
GS: What are some of your best memories at the University of Minnesota?
AS: I think the most obvious one is the national championship my senior year. We really ended with a bang. And I think the best part was just the overall experience that I had, whether it was classes or teammates or the relationships I developed with the staff. I still keep in contact with a lot of them today. Whether it’s just catching up or getting life advice, I really keep those relationships near and dear to my heart. Attending the University of Minnesota was one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life, and I definitely have no regrets when it comes to that.
GS: What was one of your favorite things about being involved in Gopher athletics?
AS: I was fortunate to have coaches that not only developed me as a player but more importantly as a person. It was a combination of having positive influences and examples around me to push me in the right direction and show me that being a good person is more important than being the best hockey player in the world. That’s probably one of the biggest things that helped develop me as a person during my time in Minnesota. If I went somewhere else, who knows, I may not have been blessed with that.
GS: What did it mean to you to win the Big Ten Medal of Honor?
AS: I feel very undeserving. I’m kind of speechless. It just topped off my whole experience at the U. Having Joe Maturi present that award to me was near and dear to my heart. He was a great mentor to me as a student-athlete, and I couldn’t think of a better way, along with a national championship, to cap off my experience at the U. It all came to a close beautifully. I’m very honored to be on the list of Medal of Honor winners, and it’s really cool to see the stories of athletes following me.
GS: How closely do you still follow the Gophers today?
AS: I follow them. It’s sad, the more and more years that pass I don’t know as many of the players that play. I still follow the team though – I’m a die-hard Gopher fan, and I will be until the day that I die. I try to keep up with Coach Frost and Coach Johnson, and other staff members in the athletic building as well. I keep cheering, even if it is from afar.
GS: How did your Gopher hockey experience prepare you for life beyond the U?
AS: For me, I got a degree, and not only a piece of paper but other lessons and values I’ve used to set my priorities, to help me be a more well-rounded person. I feel those things stay with you and guide you more than just knowledge. I think the university has done an awesome job preparing me for my career. The hockey program was also top-notch, which has obviously helped me in my career. It all meshes together, academics and sports, to make you a well-rounded person in the future to have an impact on the world and other people you meet.
GS: What’s next for Anne Schleper?
AS: I plan to continue playing hockey and training. I’m getting back into it as our next tryout camp is in August. That’s going to come very fast, but I’ll be prepared. I have to stay focused and do my part to do the best I can and help the team be the best it can be. I’ll work a couple of camps in Minnesota this summer, and then some down in Florida. I’m kind of all over the place, but I guess I asked for it! I enjoy it all, and I enjoy traveling.
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