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Gold medalist returns to New Hampton to say thanks

Union Leader Correspondent

March 21. 2018 10:30PM
Cayla Barnes, a standout four- year defenseman with the New Hampton School women’s hockey team, shows her Olympic gold medal, which she won as part of the U.S. Olympic team at the Games in Pyeongchang last month. She was at the school Monday and visited the school’s Jacobson Arena and her prep school coach, Craig Churchill, at left. (John Koziol/Union Leader correspondent)

Cayla Barnes, a standout four- year defenseman on the New Hampton School's women's hockey team, poses on Monday in the school's Jacobson Arena with Craig Churchill, who was her coach. Set to enroll this fall at Boston College, Barnes was at the NHS to share her latest success with Churchill, which came on Feb. 22 in PyeongChang, South Korea when she, with Team USA, defeated Canada to win the Olympic women's hockey gold medal. (John Koziol)

NEW HAMPTON — Her Olympic gold medal in tow, women’s hockey player Cayla Barnes returned to her alma mater, New Hampton School, to say thank you for making her a better person and player.

Barnes, a defenseman for Team USA, graduated from New Hampton in 2017, then moved on to Boston College. The Eastvale, Calif., native, who has been a New Hampshire resident since last summer, when her parents moved to Keene, played an integral role in all five games at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, where the Americans beat Canada for the gold medal.

As a senior at New Hampton, under coach Craig Churchill, Barnes helped the Huskies go 33-1 and win the New England Prep School Athletic Council Division I title.

“Playing here really prepared me” for playing at an elite level, said Barnes, who dropped in on the New Hampton campus on Monday. Barnes caught up with her former coach and also made a stop at the Sant Bani School in Sanbornton, where she did a service learning project.

“New Hampton is one of my favorite places,” Barnes said at Jacobson Arena, where she posed for photos and chatted with Churchill. “It helped me to grow as a person and as a hockey player.”

Churchill said Barnes was a great fit at New Hampton because she was “the right player,” but not necessarily the best player.

“Cayla worked hard and played hard and everything she did was the right way,” said Churchill, adding that Barnes was also “very humble” but had confidence as well as “great leadership ability.”

“All the boxes that I was looking for in a player,” he said, were “check, check, check” when Barnes joined the Huskies.

Churchill remembered seeing Barnes at the New Hampton hockey camp six years ago. He knew immediately that she was going places.

“She’s my first Olympian, my first gold medalist,” said Churchill, “She worked so hard.”

Barnes, also a member of the U.S. Women’s National Under-18 team that won three titles from 2015-2017, plans to return to Boston College to continue studying and playing for the Eagles’ women’s hockey team. She appeared in five games early last season before moving on to the national team in October to begin training for the Olympics.

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