Olympic hockey player and Stevenson High School alumna Megan Bozek returned to her alma mater Wednesday for the first time since winning a silver medal in Sochi.
Bozek, of Buffalo Grove, received a standing ovation from more than 100 students, teachers, coaches and administrators when she took the stage in an auditorium. She answered questions for about half an hour before posing for pictures with students and staffers.
"It's really good to be back and to see everything so successful," Bozek said of the Lincolnshire school, where she received a diploma in 2009.
Bozek spoke about her Olympic experiences, her visit Monday with President Obama in the White House and a chance encounter with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Olympic Village.
"He walked right up to our table and introduced himself," the 22-year-old athlete said. "And yes, he did have a shirt on."
The U.S. squad's overtime loss to Team Canada in the gold medal game came up, too.
"It was a heartbreaking loss," Bozek said, her silver medal hanging around her neck. "It was disappointing. But coming to talk to you guys makes me realize how fortunate I am."
The U.S.-Canada rivalry is quite real, she said. It's so heated, Bozek told the crowd, she doesn't like to say the name of the country where her boyfriend lives.
"At the end of the day, we're fighting for the same goal," Bozek said of the two national teams.
After a brief introduction and gifts from Superintendent Eric Twadell, Bozek took a seat in a comfortable chair on the stage and answered a few questions from Assistant Athletic Director Chad Dauphin, one of her former teachers.
Dauphin opened it up to the crowd after a bit.
Stevenson junior Megan Keenan had a prime seat in the front row to see Bozek.
"I'm a huge hockey fan, and I thought it was really cool (that) Megan went to school with us," Keenan said. "I had to be here."
Bozek urged the students to stay focused and enjoy their time at Stevenson.
"It should be four years that you guys should remember forever," she said.
When asked about her future, Bozek said she hopes to earn a spot on the hockey squad for the 2018 Winter Games in South Korea.
"I would love to go for another Olympics," she said.
After the event, Athletic Director Trish Betthauser called Bozek a remarkable young lady. Bozek's on-ice accomplishments -- including a pair of national championships with the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers -- show students that if they really commit to something, "those dreams can come true," Betthauser said.
It was one of those national titles that brought Bozek and the rest of the Minnesota hockey team to the White House.
Last week, Bozek met with students at Cotton Creek School in Island Lake. Her mother is a Wauconda Unit District 118 employee.
Bozek is one of two recent Olympians who attended high school in Lake County. The other, figure skater Jason Brown, won a bronze medal in Sochi and received a hero's welcome after the Winter Games at his alma mater, Highland Park High School.