By Eric Erickson
Editor’s note:The writer coached Gigi Gabrielli at Northwest Como Recreation Center and Murray Middle School.
The St. Paul Area Athena Awards honor female high school seniors who demonstrate outstanding athletic achievements. One recipient is selected from each East Metro high school.
For Como Park, the 2019 Athena Award winner is Gianna Gabrielli, a three-sport varsity athlete since her freshmen year.
Soccer in the fall, hockey in the winter, and softball in the spring—for four years, Gianna (or “Gigi” to teammates and coaches) has represented Como and the community with class.
In addition to 12 varsity letters, Gianna’s accomplishments include a two-time captain in soccer for the Cougars, a two-time captain in hockey for the St. Paul Blades (now Riveters), and currently a senior softball captain for the defending city champs from Como.
Yes, she’s a leader…and talented.
Gabrielli earned all-conference honorable mention three times in soccer, an honorable mention in hockey while leading the Riveters in goals and assists this past season and, as a junior, was selected as an all-conference player in softball.
When you factor in the two years Gabrielli sang in the Ordway Honors Choir and her 3.5 grade-point average in college-prep coursework, the Athena Award feels right on the mark.
With the specialization of sports and year-round club programs, three-sport athletes like Gabrielli are rare. And while she clearly has been an asset for each of her teams, Gabrielli insists she has benefited most.
“My whole life has revolved around sports,” she said. Sports have “taught me so much about structure and time management.
“But even more, it’s helped me make such great friendships and meet so many amazing people,” she added. “All my sports have allowed me to connect with people that I wouldn’t have connected with through just the school day. And each team is a different family that I’m a part of. Each season I transfer to a new family.”
The honor of being named an Athena recipient is not taken lightly. “I’ve worked really hard to give my best effort in everything I’ve tried, and it means a lot to be recognized for the Athena Award,” Gabrielli said. “To know some of the other athletes receiving this award from other schools is really humbling and it makes me proud to be thought of in that way, and proud to represent Como and St. Paul.”
Next year, Gabrielli thinks she may miss the daily rigor and discipline that comes with sports and college-prep academics. So, she’s taking on a new challenge: the Air Force National Guard. In September, Gabrielli will begin basic training and job training in San Antonio, Texas. She plans to spend a year acquiring new skills and pushing herself to new limits, then continue on with the Guard while pursuing a college education.
Gabrielli earned the Athena Award with talent, determination and drive, qualities that are certain to serve her well in the next endeavors of her life.
Eric Erickson is a social studies teacher at Como Park High School and a longtime coach of school and youth sports in St. Paul.