Tammy MAHON played professional volleyball and battled for an Olympics berth on the world stage. But her favourite sports memory was the 1997 high school provincial A girls' volleyball title she won in Grade 12, when the Treherne Tigers defeated St. Pierre in a packed gym in Melita.
"We weren't expected to really do very much but we just kept winning. When we won, we were all in shock, but we won as a team and it was such a great moment," said the 5-10 Mahon, who was presented as the Manitoba High Schools Athletic Association female Athlete of the Half Century at a press conference on Friday.
"I played for 15 years after that and had some great experiences, but that one, winning the single-A championship, sticks out because it's just the time of your life in high school," she said. "It was that incredible feeling of not being expected to do it but winning anyway because you're just trying your hardest and having fun."
Mahon excelled in basketball, track and field and volleyball and also played softball.
"When you find something in high school that you are passionate about, like I did with sports, that's huge. It makes you feel like you belong," Mahon said. "Pure is a good word to describe it. That discovery phase of finding out how awesome sport is, the failures, the successes, all of that. There's no politics or money involved. It's just that pure state of sport and that's why I've held onto it and still hold onto it. I shared it with these girls I grew up with, and it's got a special place in my heart."
Don Hurton, the Prairie Spirit School Division superintendent, coached Mahon for three years in volleyball prior to the Grade 12 championship year.
"What I remember most about her was her unselfish attitude," he said. "She was very, very competitive, yet at the same time she was very concerned about her teammates and a phenomenal leader."
Mahon said she was "humbled" by being chosen as the MHSAA's top female athlete of the past 50 years.
"Coming from where I did, that community (Holland) and Treherne Collegiate, the support that I received there, the passion that school has for sport, my teachers, my towns Holland and Treherne both, who have followed my career from the time I was 13 years old to the time I was the captain of Team Canada. I'm so grateful to have come from where I did," Mahon said. "It's an honour to represent high school athletes and to be considered for this award."
Mahon was the captain of Canada's national women's volleyball team and recently retired from after a 10-year career. Unless an exceptional contract comes her way, she may also be calling it a career at the professional level after eight seasons in Sweden (2003), the Netherlands (2004-07), Romania (2007-09), Azerbaijan (2009-10), Greece (2010-11) and Germany (2012).
These days, she's running a cattle farm with her fiancé Terry near Dauphin and helps coach some practices with the Dauphin varsity girls' volleyball team.
"I always say that volleyball picked me because it wasn't my best sport, but I loved it the most," said Mahon, who played five years with the University of Manitoba Bisons volleyball team before joining the nats.
"I owe so much of the life I've had and the person I am today to sports and the great experiences I've had."