Olympian Alum Visits Taft
A.J. Mleczko '93 Practices with Girls' Varsity Hockey
Her feats are tremendous both in her high school years and beyond. While at Taft, A.J. Mleczko '93 led Taft's girls' ice hockey to three straight New England titles from 1991-93, the only three titles in Taft's long history of girls' hockey. She holds Taft's all-time scoring record at 111 in her three seasons in a Big Red uniform. Her photograph and name appears over Odden Arena although her glory was built in Taft's older Mays Rink. After being a standout player for the Big Red, Mleczko took her talents both in and out of the classroom to Harvard University. There, she continued her illustrious career alongside Sally Duval, wife of current girls' hockey coach James Duval. In 1999, Mleczko had a stalwart year at Harvard winning not only a National Championship, earning All-American honors, but also was awarded the Patty Kazmaier Award for the nation's top college women's ice hockey player.
Unlike most collegiate athletes, Mleczko's career continued beyond her college graduation. Mleczko played the right to represent the United States in two Olympic games. In the 1998 games in Nagano, Mleczko and her teammates defeated favorite Canada in the finals to earn her first Olympic Gold. Looking to repeat in 2002 on home soil, Mleczko's team hadn't lost in any of their pre-Olympic matches. A rematch with Canada saw the underdogs win again - this time with Canada on top and Mleczko and her teammates with a Silver medal. Since her Olympic accomplishments as a player, Mleczko has commented Women's Hockey in the last two Olympic games.
With a host of connections, Mleczko graced the Odden ice with powerful strides and a US Hockey warm-up suit on Tuesday the 22nd. Not only did she skate with the current Varsity team, she also hopped into drills without pads, and gave individual and team advice to the Taft team full of aspirations to follow in her footsteps. Her day with the team did not end on the ice, but Mleczko also talked with the girls after practice telling stories of her hockey career, favorite moments, championships at Taft, and tips for girls wanting to follow her model. It was hard to see what was more transfixing for the current Big Red hockey players - hearing Mleczko's hockey story or holding her Olympic Gold and Silver medals. Although she has not been to Taft in some time, much less skated with stick in hand, her legacy and genuine spirit continue to give to the rich program she helped establish.