Michigan Hall of Honor 2020: Gannon started the field hockey championship fire

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Kelli Gannon, the first three-time U.S. field hockey player from Michigan, a member of two Big Ten regular season and Big Ten Tournament title-winning teams, and 2000 Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year, Kelli Gannon will be inducted into Michigan Athletics Lobby. of honor at a ceremony on Friday, October 22 as part of the 2020 promotion with Sarah Cain (women’s gymnastics), Ty Law (football), Jim Paciorek (baseball), Tripp Welborne (football) and Lexi Zimmerman (volley- ball).

By Steve Kornacki

ANN ARBOR, Mich.Kelli gannon paved the way to the top for the University of Michigan field hockey team.

The Wolverines had never won the Big Ten Championship before Gannon arrived in 1997 as a freshman from Escondido, Calif. That season, they were tied for the first of two conference regular-season championship teams they were on.

Michigan had never been to the NCAA tournament, either. But he finished second in the national event in 1999.

Gannon, who scored 49 goals and tallied 126 points in four memorable seasons, was an American first all-team as a junior and senior, while overcoming severe back problems to excel. She was the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year and the Big Ten Medal of Honor in 2000, when she was a finalist for National Player of the Year. Gannon was also the Big Ten Tournament MVP and a member of the NCAA All Tournament Team in 1999.

She did everything but win a National Championship, but was there when her younger sister, Kristi Gannon, and the rest of the Wolverines won the NCAA title in 2001. However, make no mistake, the Big Sister set off school field hockey fire.

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Kelli Gannon was the featured guest on the Oct. 14 edition of the Conqu’ring Heroes podcast, where she spoke to host Jon Jansen about some of the key moments in her Wolverines career, playing with and following the career. of his sister’s trainer and Michigan Assistant Kristi Gannon Fisher, and revisits some of his fond memories in Ann Arbor.

Kelli came so far, so fast with new Michigan coach Marcia Pankratz. And so, when Pankratz intervened in a discussion about Gannon’s induction into the Wolverines Hall of Honor on October 22, Gannon couldn’t hold back his tears.

“Oh, she’s helped me in so many ways,” Gannon began. “Like I’m eternally grateful… I’m starting to cry… These moments mean so much more now. She was kind of like your parent, when you’re 18 and away from home and your family is your team, basically She I just knew when I needed certain things.

“I was starting to deal with my back injury, and it was a challenge. You would come into the training room early to do your prep work, then work out, then stay after for ice baths and things like that. She made a huge impact and saw when I was struggling physically and mentally. I went through a lot, and she was there for me to give me the help I needed and see how she could be there for me. “

Gannon first met Pankratz, a member of the US Olympic teams in 1988 and 1996, when she started playing the sport in her hometown just north of San Diego.

“I’ve known Marcia since she trained here at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista,” said Gannon. “When I was in high school, they came and did clinics. So I knew her from there.

“We had the (Michigan coach) trio of Marcia, Tracey (Fuchs) and Peggy (Storrar) who, ironically, would be my teammates during my four years on the national team. So that was pretty cool. like playing with your aunts or uncles or something. The three, their knowledge and the way they got along, they just had that fight and that level of intensity on a daily basis that made you grow up. They made you. believe you could do anything.

“And when I went to Michigan to visit you have to believe in the people you’re going to spend four years with. But, again, the team too. They are your family, and I have fitted in very well with all of them. I felt like I was at home.

The Wolverines were 19-4 overall and 6-0 in a conference game before winning the Big Ten tournament in 2000. They were 20-7 in 1999, winning the conference tournament for the first time ever. by qualifying for the NCAA Championship game in Boston – where the No.1 Maryland defeated Michigan, 2-1.

“We had a really good group,” Gannon said. “It had to be all the people Marcia recruited because I was in the first class she recruited. We had the same mindset and Marcia had a way of motivating you – especially in really intense situations, and just believing. In you.

“We could all come together and do impossible things.”

Gannon took what she learned from Pankratz and others to create a field hockey program from the ground up at Westview High in San Diego, focusing on the elements that make a real team.

“And we made it to the final!” said Gannon. “I taught them the basics as best I could, and the strategy against our opponents, and they were ready to work together. We reached the county championships, but we lost there.”

However, the strain on her back that caused her pain, in addition to time away from her daughter Jordan, 13, and son Mason, 9, caused her to step away from training. in high school. Jordan enjoys playing the clarinet and Mason plays Pop Warner football, and Kelli supports the two in their endeavors.

It was her mother, Judy, who encouraged her to start field hockey (“something new”) as a freshman in high school after playing soccer for travel and Olympic youth development.

“I lost my biggest fan, my mom, on September 8, 2019,” Gannon said. “She was the matriarch of our family (Kelli is the eighth of 10 children) and played in every game. All she wanted was to go see us play. So that’s something our whole family has to say. had to face.We are while checking out daddy.

“But mom got me started field hockey, and I saw more scholarship opportunities there. So, I gave it a try.”

Did she immediately adopt it?

“No,” Gannon said, laughing at the memory. “My sister, Nikki, drove me through the first few days of testing. I asked her to tell the coach that I wasn’t coming back and that I was going to quit.

“So we got back in the car and the car didn’t start. Seriously, someone must have looked down on me. Nikki said,” You might as well go back. It’s going to be awkward. you gonna do, sit in the car? ‘ I was going to play tennis, but I went back to field hockey. “

Gannon graduated and performed at San Pasqual High School in Escondido, where she now leads the e-learning (“What’s Good Right Now.”) Which covers the entire curriculum. She advises and directs the pace for individual students. And, incidentally, Nikki also teaches there.

Kelli said: “I tell my students, ‘I wanted to get away from here as much as possible, so I picked Michigan, and now look where I am.'”

Gannon laughed and added, “But I love what I’m doing now because I can connect with the students. I was teaching 40 kids in a health class and I can teach health, (physical education ) and math. “

Kelli gannon

She majored in Physical Education and Minor in Mathematics in Michigan, where she received the Big Ten Medal of Honor awarded annually to the most highly educated and successful senior women and men in academia and athletics.

“I hold myself to a high standard everywhere,” Gannon said.

She becomes the second Wolverine field hockey player to be elected to the Hall of Honor, joining Mary Callam (Brandes), Michigan’s first major scorer, 1976-79.

“I am completely humbled and surprised, excited and grateful to be the second player in field hockey,” said Gannon. “It’s something really special. Plus, to be considered in the same field as all of the other inductees is pretty wild.”

All-Americans from four other sports join her in the 2020 class: Ty Law and Tripp Welborne (soccer), Sarah Cain (gymnastics), Jim Paciorek (baseball) and Lexi Zimmerman (volleyball).

Gannon is one of the most decorated players in her sport, winning numerous national and conference honors. Was there one of those who meant the most to her?

“They are all wonderful,” she said. “It’s hard for me to think about it again because I’ve been out of this life for so long, and I stopped training because of my back. I had to retire because of it, and all my energy is devoted to my two children and teaching and coaching football.

“So when it comes to what I preach to my own kids and the students I meet, it’s about doing the best you can. Teams do the things you really care about, and it’s not titles you get. So what stands out to me are those key moments and games, the times we did something amazing and big, and the times with my coaches and teammates. what struck me.”

Gannon was a midfielder for the United States Women’s National Field Hockey Team for four years before retiring just before the 2004 Olympics.

“I got to play with a lot of doctor’s visits and training,” Gannon said. “I basically had a degenerative disc that was going away, and part of it was sticking out into my spinal cord. So it’s just gradually… I mean, it was a daily struggle, I’m not going to lie.

“But it got to the point where we were until the Olympic qualifiers, that I couldn’t really feel my legs anymore. So that day stuck in my memory, where I had to say, ‘I can’t anymore. do it. ‘One of my teammates, who took my place, said: “I’m so sorry, but thanks to you I can go.”

Gannon has had a wonderful career that has paved the way for others.

She is very proud of her sister, Kristi gannon fisher, currently an assistant coach of Michigan, playing an important role in that 2001 national championship. Kristi scored one goal and assisted the other while goaltender Maureen Tasch made 11 saves in a 2-0 win over Maryland, best in the standings, in Kent, Ohio.

“They have to win the championship!” Kelli said. “My whole family was there, and there are 10 of us. We were all in the same suite! Our parents (Judy and Gary) were there.

“They won it for all of us. It was just an amazing time.”


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