GopherSports: Marnie, thanks for taking the time to speak with us. So what have you been up to in the 30 years since you left Minnesota?
Marnie Wheaton: Well, I am a flight attendant for Delta now and I have been doing this for almost 21 years. I am based out of the Twin Cities.
GS: So you have traveled all over the world. Where are some of your favorite places to go?
MW: I would say Anchorage, Bozeman, and Paris are three of my favorite places to travel.
GS: Wow, there is certainly a contrast between Anchorage, Bozeman and Paris.
MW: I have been to Paris only a couple of times-once being very recently-but I really like it there. The last time I was there was during the final stage of the Tour de France. We saw the riders come into the Champs-Élysées where they do the final laps before the finish. They go by so fast. It was pretty incredible.
GS: So Paris sounds amazing, but you need to convince us about Anchorage.
MW: Anchorage still has an authentic Wild West feel and the people traveling there are really great. There are some fabulous places to see and the wilderness is very untouched and beautiful. I have spent a lot of time up there, especially in the summer.
GS: Do you ever travel with your tennis rackets?
MW: No, I do not. I may be gone for four days and only one day could be conducive to tennis, so it is not worth it to travel with any tennis equipment. I would rather be out and about and see things.
GS: When we called you earlier, you said you were heading home after getting some of your rackets worked on. What upcoming event are you playing in?
MW: I have played tournaments all my life, but this week is really fun. It is called the Pine Tree Apple Tennis Classic and it helps raise money to benefit cancer research at Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota. It is Aug. 5-8 in White Bear Lake, Minn. In the past I played in the Open and Master divisions and now that I am 55 I am playing in the Grand Masters division. It should be a lot of fun and hopefully it will raise a lot of money.
GS: So you are obviously still active in tennis. How often do you practice?
MW: I do not compete like I used to, but I play in some airline tournaments and pro-am events throughout the year. I practice about two times a month and one of the events I really look forward to every year is the Delta Airlines Tennis Tournament in Boca, Florida. It is in the spring and I have to practice a couple months beforehand to get ready. You never lose the game in your mind, but flying all over the world makes finding time to practice tough. I have to work practice time into my schedule.
GS: You were tough to beat at Minnesota. Your 122 career wins is still the most in program history. Do you see anybody breaking that record?
MW: I did not even know that. It is nice to hold the record, but I cannot predict if it will ever be broken. I think the university setup is different now and the scheduling is different. I am not saying it is better or worse. I was very fortunate to be able to play at Minnesota during the time I did. We had amazing team camaraderie and our coach, Ellie Peden, was phenomenal. It was a great time. I have always been very competitive, and I am very proud of those 122 wins.
GS: When you think back on your college career, is there a moment or two that immediately comes to your mind?
MW: There are a couple of things. I won the Big Ten once, but probably the biggest for me was qualifying for the national tournament. The women's team was not part of the Big Ten as far as going to nationals. We were part of the AIAW, and I was fortunate to win both the AIAW singles and doubles championships which enabled me to qualify for nationals. It was also a tremendous honor to be named Athlete of the Year.
GS: Have you been to the new Baseline Tennis Center?
MW: I have been there, and it is an absolutely beautiful facility. I would have loved to have played there.
GS: How has the game changed since you played in college?
MW: The game has changed a lot. The rackets, balls, and conditioning have changed. Everything is totally different now. Back then, people did not work out that much. We did a little running and that was it. Even though we all had different personalities, we all had one goal and we always supported each other. The beauty of coach Peden was that she was a good coach and that she was also very good at recruiting and fundraising. She held the responsibilities that numerous people hold today.
GS: What advice would you pass along to those playing at Minnesota now?
MW: The most important thing is to use your God-given talent and a hard work ethic to get the most out of your time at school. You have to have fun as well and not let the little things bother you because those four years go by very quickly.