Making the preliminary roster for the U.S. Olympic Women’s Team was bittersweet for Anne Schleper.
Bitter because it was hard to see some of her best friends not make the team, and sweet because it kept alive the dream she has been working nearly her whole life to achieve: Skating for Team USA in the Olympic Winter Games.
She states, tongue-in-cheek, that she learned to skate before she learned to walk, “just like most Minnesota kids.” But the genesis of her hockey career coincided with that of her older brother’s. Schleper said she got into the sport at 3 years old because she secretly wanted to be just like her brother Adam.
“We definitely weren’t a hockey family until he started playing,” she said. “But I followed right along in his footsteps.”
Like most girls her age, Schleper grew up playing on boys’ teams. It’s an experience she credits with building her competitiveness. It also helped that she played both soccer and softball at St. Cloud Cathedral High School.
That drive and determination helped lead to roster spots on the U.S. Women’s Select Team for the 2007 Under-18 Series against Canada and a scholarship offer to play at the University of Minnesota starting in 2008.
Schleper says the decision to leave her hometown of St. Cloud and head down I-94 to become a Golden Gopher was the best of her life, but added that her incoming recruiting class was “a little cocky” and quickly got a reality check.
“We kind of thought we’d go all four years and have four national championships,” she said. “But we learned very quickly, we got humbled pretty quickly, that that’s not as easy to do as it is to say.”
Schleper finished her Minnesota career in 2012 as one of the Gophers’ career leaders in defensemen scoring, their all-time leader with 158 games played and, in the final game of her college career, completed her goal of winning a national title.
“Just to end on that note my senior year was absolutely amazing, and I couldn’t ask for anything better,” Schleper said.
With one goal complete, Schleper has her eyes set on another: winning an Olympic gold medal.
Like the path she took to being a national champion at Minnesota, the road to Sochi, Russia hasn’t been smooth or easy. But she continues to push forward, knowing the challenges faced now will pay off once the games begin to count.
“The girls and I have put in a lot of work this year,” she said. “You don’t always feel the freshest some days but you learn to work through it and you know through that you can accomplish anything. A lot of confidence comes through that.”
Schleper added that she’s pleased with the progress the team is making, especially since the Four Nations Cup in early November, where the U.S. Women’s National Team finished third for the first time in tournament history.
With the puck dropping for Team USA in Sochi on Feb. 8, the competition is right around the corner, and Schleper has to constantly pinch herself knowing that her Olympic dream is about to come true.
“I’m super excited to see where we’ll be [at the Olympics],” she said. “We have a great group of girls; just the chemistry with us is amazing. I think that’s what makes us so successful. We’re willing to take what coach tells us to do and we do it. We come together as a team and we find a way. It’s exciting to think about the lead up.”
Photos by Images On Ice
Calleigh hasn’t been playing hockey long, but her love of the game has quickly blossomed to the point where she “lives, eats, drinks and sleeps hockey.”
Now in her second year of playing for the Walpole Express U8 Minor Team, Calleigh works hard to set an example for her teammates on the ice. Whenever her coaches need help picking up pucks or moving cones, Calleigh is always the first to volunteer.
In addition to hockey, Calleigh plays lacrosse and is a model student. She has been chosen to be a class leader by her teachers, meaning she is paired with any new students to help them feel welcome.
She is also passionate about dog rescue, volunteering at the local rescue clinic and helping to raise money for dog rescue in Mexico through lemonade stands and yard sales.