The most decorated and famous beach volleyball player in the sport’s history may conjure up images of Southern California beaches, but Kerri Walsh Jennings’ roots are firmly planted in the Bay Area. When she was in high school, her family moved from Scott’s Valley to San Jose, and she attended Archbishop Mitty High, where she played basketball and indoor volleyball. The daughter of two athletes – Tim played minor league baseball with the A’s, and Margie played volleyball at Santa Clara – Walsh was a star in high school, leading Mitty volleyball to three state championships, the basketball team to another, and was named the Gatorade High School Volleyball player of the year.   She received a scholarship to Stanford and helped the Cardinal to three NCAA Championship Games, winning the title in 1996 and 1997. She was named the co-National Player of the Year in 1999. After graduating in 2000, she made the Olympic volleyball team, which finished fourth in Sydney.  By then, beach volleyball was a popular Olympic sport, having been introduced in Atlanta in 1996. After the 2000 Olympics, Walsh began playing beach volleyball professionally and never looked back. Nicknamed “Six Feet of Sunshine,” Walsh Jennings  partnered with Misty May-Treanor and won gold in three consecutive Olympics – 2004, 2008 and 2012 – while winning 21 consecutive matches and only losing one set during that streak. The duo also dominated the professional circuit. May-Treanor retired after the London Olympics; at the end of that championship match, Walsh-Jennings asked her opponent, April Ross, to become her partner and to try for another gold in 2016. The two formed a successful partnership but lost in the Olympic semifinal to a Brazilian pair, finishing with bronze. Walsh-Jennings turned 38 at the Rio Olympics and has been a strong role model for women, a spokeswoman for a healthy lifestyle and proof that women can have long athletic careers. Married to fellow pro-volleyball player Casey Jennings, the couple have three children. Walsh Jennings was five weeks pregnant with her youngest child during the London Olympics.  “We want to be a role model for the family dynamic,” Walsh Jennings said.

Narrative by Ann Killion