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Heart of a Champion

Heart of a Champion


by Angela Garvin
photography by Jeremy Petrick Photography

Most athletes start their athletic careers at a young age, and Brenna Tinjum is no exception. She has always been around sports, including being the manager for a volleyball team coached by her aunt. Like many youngsters, she looked up to her coaches during those early years, many of them seniors in high school at the time. “It was really cool to have older players coaching us. We could look up to them and be excited to be like them one day.”

Brenna is from Dalton and has attended school in Underwood her entire life, along with her older sister Brooke. Although her sister now lives in Fargo, when they see each other they are still competitive when it comes to volleyball. “We always play volleyball out in the yard and try to beat each other.” She is never far from family. Many of her mother’s family is nearby, all having gone to school in Underwood, while her father’s family lives in the Fargo-Moorhead area.

Brenna participates in three sports; volleyball, basketball and track. She started playing the first two in the fourth grade.

When it comes to basketball, she excels at point guard. Brian Hovland, her basketball coach, says he has enjoyed coaching her throughout the years. “Brenna is an exceptional student-athlete,” he said. “She is a leader in and out of the classroom. My daughter Sydney and she have been friends forever, and I have watched her grow up, with her never-say-die attitude and a competitive nature.”

In volleyball, Brenna is the outside hitter. She is friends with the daughter of her volleyball coach as well. “Brenna is a fun athlete to coach,” said her volleyball coach, Diane Ross. “She puts extra time in to be the best she can be and has had a lot of physical ability since she was young. She is becoming mentally tougher, able to shake off mistakes and is becoming a more vocal leader. She’s always ready to compete, whether it be in practice or a tourney, she goes all out.”

Brenna was captain of the basketball team during her junior year and will be again this coming year, for both basketball and volleyball. As each season comes and goes, her mountain of accolades continues to grow.

Last season, she achieved 1,000 career kills. She has been named volleyball MVP every year since ninth grade, and made All-State Honorable Mention last year as well as earning a place on the All-State tournament team.

In basketball, she is currently tied for most three-pointers and has been named Defensive MVP every year since her freshman season. She has also been named All-Conference for both volleyball and basketball since ninth grade.
Her third sport of choice is track, which she has participated in since seventh grade. There are not enough students for a full team at the Underwood school, so they have partnered with Henning and Battle Lake. Brenna participates in the long jump, high jump, and the triple jump.

“She has the ability to jump quickly, which helps her in her events,” said her coach, Kristy Finck. “She is a great leader, and the younger girls look up to her. She works hard and will do whatever is asked of her. She puts a lot of time in all her athletics to make herself better. She is a coach’s dream, and has the heart of a champion.”

Brenna currently holds the record for the triple jump and was named the MVP for track this past year.

Summers are busy for a three-sport athlete, with basketball league on Monday nights, volleyball league on Tuesday nights, and volleyball camps, just to name a few items on her agenda. She is also at the Lake Region Healthcare Health & Wellness Hub in Fergus Falls three days a week. There she trains with her teammates, which allows them to grow closer as a team.

In addition to their weekly training, they also make a point of doing fun activities together to stay connected. “During the summer we try to get together, have a day out on the pontoon or different things like that to bond as a team.”

Participating in different athletic camps over the years has also helped their teams bond and grow together, as well as improve as individual athletes, both personally and in their athletic abilities.

Like any athlete, having support and inspiration goes a long way in making goals a reality. Brenna’s list of inspirations includes her parents, who sacrifice their time and money to help advance her in athletics as well as academics. “My parents really inspire me,” Brenna said. “It is great to always have their support.”

Her aunt Brenda also inspires her. “She was the volleyball coach in Ashby, so she has helped me a lot during my volleyball career. She opens the gym for me and helps me get better.”

Another inspiration of Brenna’s is a former Underwood student, Carly Masloski, who went on to play at MSUM and has coached her Junior Olympics volleyball team. “She has really helped me to get better at volleyball.”
As a student, Brenna enjoys chemistry and history classes, as well as the teachers who teach them, Mr. Tiffany and Mr. Olson. She also enjoys Spanish class with Ms. Cruz.

She’s also involved in various activities outside of athletics, including choir, yearbook, and art. She is a member of the National Honor Society and Interact, a volunteer student organization through the Underwood school. Through it, she spends time volunteering in the community, helping with school dances and fundraisers. She is also a member of the youth group at her church in Dalton, Zion-Sarpsborg Free Lutheran.

When free time presents itself, Brenna likes to spend it swimming and watching movies with her friends, riding her bike, fishing with her father, and most importantly, playing with her niece.

Being a part of a small community has made a positive difference, Tinjum says. “With a smaller school and community, the people get to know each other so well and really support one another, and it becomes apparent at sporting events. At games, we always have a full crowd because the whole community comes out to support us.”

Brenna has been in communication with a few colleges about the possibility of playing volleyball. Her hope is to go into occupational therapy, after being inspired to do so by the parents of one of her friends. However, nothing has been decided at this point, and she is open to a change in choice of major.

She holds on to her favorite verse, II Corinthians 5:7; “For we live by faith, and not by sight. “You have to trust in God, even when you don’t know what is going to happen.”

For right now, Brenna plans on enjoying her last summer before her senior year begins and looks forward to her final year of high school. There is a student trip the choir will be taking to California sometime in the spring of 2018, which Brenna eagerly awaits.

“I just really want to enjoy my senior year, it all goes by so fast.”