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Athlete Spotlight: Kathryn Peterson

July 03, 2020, 9 a.m. (ET)

Each athlete that wears the red, white and blue has a unique story to how their careers came to fruition. From the junior level to the senior squad, USA Field Hockey is putting national team athletes under the spotlight to share their journeys.

When the leaves start to turn she’s battling in the midfield in Ann Arbor, Mich. as well as the classroom. Throughout the warmer times of the year she swaps shades of blue as chants change from “Go Wolverines!” to “Go USA!” For Kathryn Peterson, her passion for the game has taken her from life on the West Coast to across the country and internationally as a member of the U.S. U-21 Women’s National Team.

Growing up in San Diego, Calif., Peterson credits a strong relationship with the athletic director at Serra High School for helping become the athlete she is today by being able to participate in four teams around the school year. For instance, by competing in cross country during field hockey season, as well as track and field in the spring, she felt more physically prepared as a student-athlete on the collegiate level. She also grew up playing with the RUSH Field Hockey club, in addition to attending as many USA Field Hockey Regional, National and Sanctioned Events as she could.
“I think that the opportunity to be on such a variety of teams for my high school, to play club at RUSH with competitive girls from all over San Diego and to participate in loads of USA field hockey events all came to together to form my perspective on team dynamics,” said Peterson. “I think that the foundation I built back in high school, by getting involved with so many varying teams, has helped me to be a stronger competitor and teammate now that I am striving to train at a higher level.”
As a high school student-athlete, Peterson picked up a handful of honors and distinctions, including first team All-California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) Girls Field Hockey (2015, 2017) and second team (2015). Her senior season was highlighted by being named the 2017 MAX Field Hockey California State High School Player of the Year and High School National Field Hockey First Team All-American, as well as the All-CIF Girls Field Hockey Athlete of the Year. She also helped Serra to four state championships between the San Diego Section Open Division CIF Field Hockey (2015-17) and San Diego Section Division II CIF Field Hockey (2014) divisions.

When it came time to select a college, it was an easy choice for Peterson after visiting the Wolverine campus. Her favorite part arguably is living around a well-supported athletic community so far from home. She also appreciates Michigan's culture of embracing the grind to excel in the classroom and on the field.

“I have absolutely loved my time at Michigan so far,” continued Peterson. “I was attracted to the school mainly because of its athletic and academic reputations, and because I was sure early on that I wanted to go to college far from home. I am a declared neuroscience major and I have gained a huge appreciation for the outstanding career resources specifically for student-athletes at Michigan.”

Heading into her junior year, Peterson played in all games her first two years at Michigan, starting 33 of the 41, and holds multiple athletic and academic honors thus far. Away from campus, she has been a recognizable name in the Olympic Development Pathway. In 2017, she was named to the U.S. U-17 Women’s National Team and got her first international experience by going on tour to Ireland. She still recalls the trip across the pond in Dublin as nerve-racking, but necessary for growth as she quickly felt more natural wearing the red, white and blue jersey.

“I was very nervous and honestly, a little doubtful in my abilities because I don’t think I knew a lot about myself as a player back then,” said Peterson. “I think that also, I had been anticipating the trip for so long, that it was hard to believe the series was finally going to be played out. Over the tour I did gain a lot of confidence and grew a lot from getting to spend time abroad with such a fun, young group who really just loved to play the sport." 

Peterson then moved up and spent the next two years on the U-19 USWNT. In the team’s last international tour to Germany in April 2019, she felt even more in her element alongside the rest of USA.

“I remember thinking to myself on the field that I didn’t want the games to end because the team was clicking so well,” commented Peterson. “I felt like we were seriously executing at our highest capacity and it made me really proud. It’s super exciting that the current U-21 team has even more potential."

Now a member of the U-21 USWNT, Peterson’s excitement to represent the United States is even higher as she sees more potential among her teammates and to grow individually.

While the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continues to damper time on the pitch, Peterson is back home in San Diego helping in the community where she can. Before local restrictions were relaxed she logged more than 30 hours with the San Diego Food Bank, a way she could actively contribute to the community through hard times. She is also coaching local athletes in a safe manner in between runs around the neighborhood to stay in shape for the upcoming fall season. To keep her skills sharp, Peterson has also been training with fellow San Diego native and U-21 USWNT teammate, Brynn Zorilla.