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Olympic gold medalist Tara Mounsey to speak to Concord High's graduating class

Tara Mounsey posing with her gold medal at the Monitor.
2/20/02
photo: ben garvin

Tara Mounsey posing with her gold medal at the Monitor. 2/20/02 photo: ben garvin

When a small group of Concord High School seniors met to choose a graduation speaker, they wanted someone who could appeal to every student, not just one group.

Olympic gold medalist and 1996 Concord High graduate Tara Mounsey fit the bill.

“Tara is more than an athlete to us. She graduated from Brown, she’s been very successful in life,” said Joseph Alexander, the class president. “I feel like her story would be more of an inspiration for any person that wants to try hard and fulfill their dreams.”

The students contacted Mounsey last week, and she accepted without hesitation.

“I just want to thank the students for thinking of me and selecting me as their guest speaker for the year,” she said yesterday. “This is a very pivotal moment in their lives, and it’s very special to be a part of and even be considered, let alone chosen. I’m really, really excited.”

Before winning gold in Japan in 1998, the first year women’s ice hockey was a part of the Olympics, Mounsey was the star of Concord High’s boys’ hockey team. (Girls’ hockey wasn’t a varsity sport at the time.) She played varsity all four years and led the team to a state championship in 1996. That year she was the first girl to win New Hampshire Player of the Year.

She went on to study neuroscience at Brown University, but took a year off to play for and tour with the U.S. women’s Olympic team. The bonds she developed with the women on that gold medal team are still strong today.

“What a special team that was, that ’98 team, just everything clicked,” she said. “Everything worked and all the players on that team were gritty, determined to achieve that one goal that we had in mind – that was to win a gold medal.”

Mounsey stayed with the team and took silver in the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City.

Today, Mounsey, 34, lives in Canton, Mass., with her spouse, Susan, and two young sons. She earned a nursing degree from Boston College and works as a nurse practitioner at New England Baptist Hospital with a doctor who specializes in hip and knee replacement. Starting this season, she also serves as the medical liaison between the hospital and the Boston Celtics.

She still tries to get on the ice at least once a week. Earlier this year, she was a volunteer coach at Boston College, but her sons kept her too busy to continue. She said she’ll let her sons decide whether they want to become hockey players, but 2-year-old Liam already insists on wearing his skates around the house.

“He’s already quite obsessed with hockey,” she said. “I don’t think there’s any stopping him.”

Mounsey wouldn’t say what she plans to share with Concord’s seniors on June 15, but she is meeting with students soon to gather feedback for her speech.

“I want to be an exciting speaker for them, not one they’re just looking to get through it so they can get out of there. I want them to listen and enjoy it and get a little bit out of it,” she said.

Her personal connection to Concord High is a major reason the students asked her to speak.

“We were thinking of getting (a speaker) from anywhere around New Hampshire, but I feel like it’s extra special coming from someone who came from Concord High and walked these halls and knows exactly how we’re feeling at the moment of graduation,” Alexander said.

When Mounsey made the boys’ team her freshman year, she’d already been playing with most of the boys for years through youth hockey. That made it easier to play on the team, because they already respected her and were used to playing with a girl. They elected her captain her senior year.

“That says a lot of the mutual respect that we all had for each other and the fun that we had. I really was another teammate, not a girl on their team,” she said.

Mounsey’s willingness to go against the grain to achieve her dreams made her a good choice, said senior Andrea Montero.

“We were just inspired by her story (and) all the things that she had to go through to get to where she is,” she said.

Choosing a speaker was the first step in the student-led process of planning graduation. This year’s group of students is small, but those who are involved are committed to making the ceremony great.

“The whole option came up of, ‘We’re about to graduate, either you decide how it happens or we decided it for you,’ ” Montero said. “I just wanted to do what I can to make myself and others happy for this moment.”

(Kathleen Ronayne can be reached at 369-3309 or
kronayne@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @kronayne.)

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