Gunderson alumni returns to campus after 2022 Olympics


Nic Gulizia, Editor

A familiar face, Rachel Llanes, recently made her return to Gunderson. Llanes, a professional ice hockey player, competed in the Beijing Olympics this year. She attended Gunderson and graduated in the class of 2009. 

Growing up, Rachel’s father got her into hockey at 12 years old. In her high school years, she was just like many other students. Llanes wasn’t very social in high school and she didn’t make many friends. She would sit in Mr. Castro’s classroom at lunchtime to work on her homework.

Rachel’s mind was focused on hockey. After school she would go straight to practice and work on her craft. 

“Anyone can work hard. That’s not what sets anyone apart. It’s the people who can consistently bring that same attitude, same work ethic, every single day, until they reach their dreams,” Llanes said. “Everyone should work hard, but who’s willing to do it every single day?”

Rachel’s mindset set her apart from other athletes who maybe had the same ambitions but didn’t put in the same effort to succeed. 

She got the chance to showcase her skills on the big stage during the 2022 Beijing Olympics as a part of China’s National Ice Hockey Team.

“Playing in that first game…I wasn’t nervous, I was freakin’ ready to go. Every game I wanted to win for that country, that country that gave me the opportunity to pursue my dream and make it a reality,” Llanes said. 

Rachel’s dreams as a young athlete turned into reality. 

“Something I never really did was give myself the time of day and just realize, ’Hey, you’ve reached your dreams,’” Rachel said.

Rachel has proved herself to be an inspiration for Gunderson students trying to take that next big step and reach an even higher level of success. 

“My motto has always been to control what you can control…Any time I feel adversity or any time things get hard, I just control my attitude because that’s what I can control,” Llanes said. “When something comes and hits you, hit it back harder.”