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Champs honored by Bush, White House

A trip to the White House in Washington, D.C., wasn't on the original UMD Women's Hockey schedule for this year, but that's where the team ended its season Monday.

A trip to the White House in Washington, D.C., wasn't on the original UMD Women's Hockey schedule for this year, but that's where the team ended its season Monday.
The 43rd president of the United States invited the inaugural NCAA women's hockey champions for a White House visit, and it's a trip they won't soon forget.
George W. Bush called the team the "Mighty Bulldogs" and was impressed that they did it with just one senior. He also had high praise for Head Coach Shannon Miller.
"I also know something about sports, and it also takes a great coach to win a title. And this team has an extraordinary coach," he said. "What makes this team special is its international character. Players from Europe, Canada and the United States all working together to become champs."
Duluth native and UMD assistant coach Shawna Davidson said it wasn't one of their goals at the start of the year to meet the president, but it was a nice benefit to winning the national championship. "It was pretty special. It feels surreal, like part of a production. Are we in a movie?"
Davidson wasn't the only Duluthian in the East Room on Monday. Players Leah Wrazidlo and Jessica Smith played on Duluth area boys and girls teams as kids and were part of the Bulldogs' title winning team. Davidson said, "I don't think Leah and Jessica when they were growing up would have thought they would meet the president by playing hockey. It's pretty cool."
Smith played two years with the Duluth Dynamite in high school. She said, "It's unbelievable. I still can't find the right words to describe it and how great of an experience that was. To see him and be there, it was a great experience."
UMD Chancellor Dr. Kathryn Martin presented President Bush a UMD goaltending glove and a hockey puck. The president shook their hands and greeted each player and coach.
The Bulldogs finished the year with 28-5-4 record, and beat St. Lawrence in the title game 4-2 in Minneapolis.
Earlier in the day, the team was treated to a Capitol Hill lunch by Congressman Jim Oberstar. The 8th district DFL'er had high praise for the team members for what they accomplished both on and off the ice.
Michelle McAteer, a forward on the team, couldn't say enough about the White House. "It's beautiful. Gorgeous and very impressive." She studied U.S. government while attending school in Canada.
Head Coach Shannon Miller was also making her first trip to the White House. "I hope this inspires the team to work hard during the off-season and hit the weight room," she said. Miller, a former police officer in Calgary, enjoyed the trip, but decided the White House furniture wasn't for her. "It's old and beautiful, but looks like it would be uncomfortable to sit on."
While the day was a thrilling one, it was also the end of the road for senior captain Brittny Ralph. "It was sad for me. While we were saying goodbye to each other, they were all saying see you in the fall and enjoy the summer, but I'm done. Who knows when I will see my teammates again. I knew it was the end."
Ralph graduated in the spring and was located right next to the president during the event. "I looked up and there he was. Wow! There's the president. It's almost too much to grasp. It's amazing, a once in a lifetime experience. I was impressed. It was a good civics lesson, and I learned a lot."
This was her third visit to Washington, D.C., and she said it was one of her favorite places to visit. "I didn't think there would be that much media."
Ralph and the team also signed plenty of autographs for the young girls that were in the audience. "The kids wanted our autographs even though they were visiting the White House. It puts it into perspective what we have accomplished. The impact of this won't be felt for much longer," he said, "I am fortunate to represent this team as captain."
That job will be a tough one next year. Not every captain will be able to lead the Bulldogs to a national title and to the White House in the same year.

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