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MIAC Profiles Of Excellence: Anna Tinkham, Concordia College

floated rightby Rich Mies, CSN Mapping the MIAC Columnist

Like many of the small towns that dot the map outside of the major urban areas, Fisher, MN, lays far off the normal recruiting trail for college athletes. In the far northwest corner of the state, it is a place few college coaches have heard of, much less visited. Anna Tinkham might not have been on the recruiting radar of many colleges, but she rose from this tiny community of 435 and went on to become one of the all-time great back-row players in the illustrious volleyball history of Concordia College.


floated leftWhile growing up in a rural setting might have kept Anna off the radar of coaches at big-city colleges, she epitomizes the kind of student-athlete Tom Mosser looks for at Concordia. “As we recruit prospective student-athletes for the Concordia volleyball team, we look for what we call a “Triple A” recruit - Academics, Athletics, Attitude,” Mosser stated. “Anna Tinkham is one of those rare Triple A people. She is a remarkable student in the classroom and on the court. She has worked hard and developed her God-given athleticism so well that she has won both Defensive Player of the Year and All-Conference recognition these past two seasons. Her teams at Concordia have been ranked in the top 25 of the country every week in her four-year career with Concordia. Anna’s optimistic outlook on life and positive attitude permeate everything she does.”

She has been a vital part of the Cobbers success for four seasons, helping them win a MIAC championship and earn berths in the NCAA playoffs all four years. She established the school record for digs in a season as a junior and was named MIAC Co-Defensive Player of the Year. This year, Anna became Concordia’s all-time leader in digs.

“Anna Tinkham is first and foremost a tremendous person,” stated Mosser. “She is a farm girl from northwest Minnesota who possesses a simple, genuine outlook on life that is so refreshing in this day and age. She is a positive, happy person with an outstanding sense of humor and an infectious laugh. She regularly tells jokes or relates funny stories to teammates, friends and coaches - always in an appropriate, lighthearted manner. She is also a person of solid character and integrity who can be counted on to do the right thing even in difficult situations. If I were to sum up Anna as a person it would be this: if you have a daughter you would want her to grow up to be like Anna.”

The youngest of four girls, Anna was raised on a farm outside of Fisher, about 75 miles north of Fargo-Moorhead. “We grow sugar beets, wheat and soybeans,” she said. “My sisters- Erin, Betsey and Emily- all played volleyball and basketball and ran track.”

Because of its size, Fisher High competes as a cooperative team with nearby Climax. Anna played volleyball and basketball for Fisher-Climax as well as playing club volleyball in Crookston with teams from Fisher-Climax in her age bracket.

On the basketball court, she was part of the Knights’ varsity for four seasons and started three years at guard. She was all-conference honorable mention her junior year and earned all-conference honors as a senior. “We were never all that great in basketball,” Anna said. “We were around .500 all four years, and lost in the early rounds of Subsections each year. I was more of a ball-handler and passer than I was a shooter, and I liked playing defense.”

Volleyball was the top sport at Fisher-Climax and it was Anna’s primary sport, too. She was a four-year starter on the varsity, seeing playing time at setter and outside hitter. She was named to the all-conference team her sophomore, junior and senior years.

Her freshman year, the Knights had new coaches and finished 13-13, losing in the early rounds of Subsection play. They reached the Subsection final in Anna’s sophomore year but lost to archrival Fosston. The got past Fosston the following year and advanced to the State Class 1A tourney. They made it to the championship game, where they lost to Bethlehem Academy. “In my senior year, we were upset by Kittson Central in the Section semifinals,” Anna stated.

Anna was named to the All-State Tourney Team her junior year and was All-State Honorable Mention as a senior.

Off the courts, Anna was active in a wide range of activities. She played baritone in the school band and sang in the choir. She was also in several school plays, but only had one leading role, playing Helen Keller in The Miracle Worker. She also took piano lessons, focusing on classical music, for 10 years. “I still play now,” she said, smiling.

Anna was part of the National Honor Society and was involved in student government throughout her high school years. She was named Homecoming queen her senior year.

Coming out of high school, she was recruited by several colleges in the area. “Coach Mosser recruited me heavily for Concordia,” she said. “I narrowed it down to Concordia and North Dakota. I preferred the D-III attitude of being a student first, then an athlete. I also liked the fact that Concordia is a private school, as I felt I’d have better educational opportunities. I knew Coach Mosser was a great coach. I got a good feeling about Concordia when I visited.”

floated rightShe was an integral part of the Cobbers’ success from the beginning of her freshman year. She played in 25 of the team’s 26 matches, and was third on the team in assists. She helped Concordia to an 8-3 record in MIAC play, good enough for fourth place. They lost 3-0 to St. Olaf in the opening round of the MIAC Playoffs, but received an at-large berth in the NCAA Division III playoffs. In the first round, they fell to Carleton, 3-1, to close the season 21-5.

In Anna’s sophomore year, Concordia rolled through the MIAC season undefeated, taking the league crown. They beat St. Thomas 3-0 and St. Benedict 3-2 to claim the MIAC Playoff championship and the league’s automatic berth in the NCAA tourney. In the Regional meet, they downed Beloit 3-1 before falling to UW-Eau Claire 3-2. They finished the season 25-2, one of the best seasons in Concordia’s history.

Last year was a breakout season for Anna. She shattered the school record for digs, posting 601 digs to lead the team. She also led the team in service aces with 44. She finished second in the MIAC in digs and was named the league’s co-Defensive Player of the Year. She led the Cobbers to a tie for second in the conference with an 8-3 record. In the MIAC Playoffs, they beat Hamline 3-0 but lost to St. Ben’s 3-2 in the semifinals. They were invited to play in the NCAA tourney but lost to UW-Whitewater in the opening round, ending the year 25-10.

This fall, Anna was named to the All-MIAC First Team as she led the Cobbers to a fourth place finish and an 8-3 league record. Anna was also named to the All-Sportsmanship Team by the coaches of the MIAC. She finished fourth in the conference in service aces and in digs. St. Olaf upset them in the quarterfinals of the MIAC Playoffs. They received an at-large berth in the NCAA Division III playoffs, and will tangle with Loras College in the opening round. The Cobbers take a 20-5 record into the NCAA tourney.

Her success does not surprise Coach Mosser. “Anna is also a great student of the game,” he noted. “She has a high volleyball IQ. She understands the game as well as various tactics and strategies. As our defensive leader, Anna is continually analyzing the opposition and verbalizing to her teammates what to expect and what to watch. It is truly like having a coach on the floor while we are playing. She puts herself and her team in the position to be successful.”

“Anna is a fierce competitor,” Mosser continued. “She is one of the most dedicated student-athletes that I have ever coached and is very self-motivated. Anna is someone who does not just work hard when it’s convenient. She pushes herself and her teammates even when it is difficult. This is what sets her apart as a volleyball player and as a person. Her intensity and drive are an inspiration to her teammates. She has earned their respect day in and day out by giving her all on the court and off, whether she is healthy or working through injuries, whether it’s a morning practice or a night practice, whether it’s the first day of preseason or during the playoff run.”

Off the court, Anna has been active in Concordia’s Student Athletic Advisory Committee for two years. The group looks out for the well-being of the student-athletes on campus and encourages support of Cobber athletics. It also promotes attendance at home games and events.

Anna has sung the National Anthem before home games; her rendition is particularly stirring. “What sets Anna’s rendition apart from all others I’ve heard is not the quality of her voice,” stated Mosser. “Don’t get me wrong - she has a very nice voice - as do most people who sing the anthem at athletic contests. As you listen, you realize that Anna is not just performing it, she is living it from the heart. You aren’t just looking at the flag and hoping it will be over soon, you are thinking about all those who have gone before us and given up their lives so that we can have the freedoms that we enjoy today. Because of the passion that she brings as she sings, many people - including me - are often moved to tears. With Anna, you experience the anthem, not just sing it!”

For four years, Anna has worked in the Concordia Sports Information Office, helping with a wide assortment of tasks. Her main responsibility has been statistics for home basketball games.

This experience helped her land an internship with the Fargo-Moorhead Redhawks baseball team in the Northern League this past summer. “I helped with stats, did game reports and things like that,” she said. “It was a great experience.”

Anna is a Business Management major with a minor in Communications. She sports a 3.20 GPA and will graduate this spring.

At the moment, her post-graduation plans are up in the air. “I’m thinking I will probably go to graduate school,” she said. “If not, then I’d like to find a position, ideally in the Fargo-Moorhead area. My plans will get more concrete after volleyball season is over.”

Anna is grateful for the education she has received and the opportunities she has had while at Concordia. “There is a real family-like atmosphere on campus, especially in the athletic department,” she said. “We all know each other, support and encourage one another. The relationships I’ve formed here are unreal. I’ve gotten a wonderful education and some great career opportunities.”

While she will leave Concordia with many fond memories, she also leaves behind a legacy. “That’s Anna Tinkham - genuine, sincere, from the heart,” stated Coach Mosser.” Anna is truly one of those rare, down-to-earth people who works hard to make herself and those around her better - and she does it in a positive, enthusiastic way. I am grateful and blessed that one particular farm girl from northwest Minnesota decided to spend four years at Concordia College.

“And if I ever do have a daughter, I hope she grows up to be like Anna.”

[Photos are used courtesy of the Concordia College Sports Information Office.]

The Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) is widely respected as one of the premier conferences in nearly every sport competed in Division III. Year after year, the MIAC produces teams and individual student-athletes who excel in their given sport. At the same time, the MIAC schools maintain a reputation of commitment to academic excellence. This article is one in a series of spotlights on some of the young men and women who represent the league’s commitment to excellence, both in the classroom and athletics during the 2008-09 academic year.

This feature will be included in the “Profiles of Excellence 2008-2009″ book which will be available for order at RDM Publishing. It will feature profiles of student-athletes from the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, written by CSN’s “Mapping the MIAC” columnist Rich Mies.