It's natural to see a prodigy and see destiny, and Krissy Wendell-Pohl was a prodigy.
But her life in sports — a life that has encompassed the fast-moving shift to competitive women's teams in high school and college, and unparalleled success at every level she played — was not destiny.
It was hardly even a path.
"People are like, 'You're paving the way.' To me it was never about that," Wendell-Pohl said. "There wasn't really an end game of what I wanted to do."
What she wanted to do was simply have fun, compete and win. So that's what she did.
She came to national attention when she was just 12, playing baseball with the boys for a Brooklyn Park team that her dad, Larry, coached. That team made the Little League World Series in 1994.
"Once we got to Williamsport it really kind of blew up," Krissy said. "To be honest, I remember thinking, 'I don't like this.' I remember having the conversation with my dad and he said, 'Hey you have to do an interview.' And I was saying, 'Why can't I go swim with everybody else?'"
It wasn't the last time she would be the center of attention.
Wendell-Pohl would start playing girls' high school hockey, a brand new concept, during her junior year of high school at Park Center in 1998 and score 110 goals in 22 games. She would join the new women's hockey program at the University of Minnesota — it came into existence in 1997 — and in 2005 became the first Gopher to win the Patty Kazmaier Award as the country's best player. Her international playing career — which started at the Olympic trials when she was still in high school — included silver at the 2002 Winter Games and bronze in 2006, plus a gold at the IIHF Women's World Championships in 2005.
All of that can feel like the incredible, incremental steps of a one-of-a-kind athlete, but that does a disservice to Wendell-Pohl's passion. And her adaptability. Sometimes creating a path comes from simply being open to what the world gives you.
"It wasn't something I could maybe set goals and say, 'I really want to do this,'" she said. "Because it didn't exist."
And now she sees the sport from the other side — as a coach, parent and amateur scout for the Pittsburgh Penguins. She and her husband, John Pohl, the former Gophers star and NHL player, have three daughters, Emily, Anna and Lucy. And they preach to their kids, and the players they coach, that sports can provide something that's essential to life.
"You have to learn to get up and get out of your comfort zone," Krissy said.
She's never backed away from that.