Garant headed to Hall of Fame after record-setting career

News File Photo Rachel (Gebauer) Garant will be inducted into the Alpena Sports Hall of Fame after a record-setting career. During a four-year softball career at Alpena High, Garant set new single-season and career pitching records. She also earned all-state honors in basketball and was a three-time Big North Conference champion in the shot put. After graduating from Alpena, Garant went on to a collegiate throwing career at Air Force.

Rachel (Gebauer) Garant seemed to have the Midas touch during her athletic career.

From setting softball records as a pitcher to winning conference and regional championships in track and field to earning all-state honors on the basketball court, Garant cut an impressive path through Alpena High School.

Her athletic excellence and versatility allowed Garant to put together an impressive resume to which she can now add another achievement: Alpena Sports Hall of Famer.

She’ll be inducted as part of the Class of 2018 along with Wayne Christopherson, Don Deadman, Bill Romstadt and Melissa (Brousseau) O’Dell on May 4 at the APlex.

“It’s a big honor. Coming out of Alpena and coming through high school and college, you hear about people going into the Hall of Fame,” Garant said. “It makes me honored to be going in (and joining) all the great names that have gone in.”

Growing up, Garant’s parents gave her the chance to try all types of sports and she also embraced conditioning from an early age. As she tried more sports, the more she became a standout and the hours of practice she put in as a youngster eventually led to a highly decorated high school career.

As a sixth grader playing travel softball, Garant tried her hand at pitching and found she had a lot of natural speed, but needed to work on her control. Over the next few years, she honed her abilities and eventually became one of the best pitchers in the history of Alpena’s program.

Her talent was evident right away to Alpena’s coaches and Garant was part of a group of five freshmen–along with Aubrey Kowalski, Leah Ventimiglia, Kayla Paczkowski and Leah Cox–who were asked to play important roles for the Wildcats right away.

Four years later, they all played important roles during the best season in program history in 2008 as Alpena went 34-6 and finished as the Division 1 runner-up.

The Wildcats weren’t shy about their team goals heading into that season, knowing they had the potential for something special.

“We sat down at the beginning of the year and asked, ‘How far can we go?’ Someone made the statement of going all the way,” Garant said.

While the Wildcats had talent at many positions, Garant’s abilities in the circle were hard to miss. She was stellar during Alpena’s postseason run in 2008, striking out 52 batters during Alpena’s last five postseason games.

She threw a pair of shutouts to lead Alpena to its first district championship since 2000 and then struck out 18 batters over two games to help the Wildcats win a regional championship– its first since 1999.

During a 17-inning classic against Rockford in the quarterfinals–a game Alpena won 2-1– Garant rebounded from giving up an early home run by finishing with 14 strikeouts and just one walk. She gave up 14 hits, but held runners at third base three different times during the late innings.

Garant’s brilliance continued in the semifinals, where she allowed an unearned run and six hits with just one walk and eight strikeouts during a 4-1 Alpena win over Howell.

She came up big again in the finals against Garden City. Alpena ultimately lost the game 2-1 in 14 innings, but Garant walked none, allowed two runs on eight hits and struck out 12.

Garant remembers that season well and said that finals loss still stings today.

“It was an extremely thrilling experience. It’s still heartbreaking to get that far (and lose),” Garant said. “Not only did we lose, but it was in extra innings.”

Alpena High’s softball program has seen many great players come through its ranks, but Garant’s achievements arguably put her in the discussion as one of the program’s all-time greats.

In the circle, Garant amassed a career record of 80-22 with 896 strikeouts and a career earned-run average of 0.88. The 2008 season was her best as she went 34-6 with 359 strikeouts and was named to the state finals all-tournament team.

Garant’s impressive softball career earned her all-Big North Conference honors four times, all-district honors three times, all-state honors as a senior and a spot among the finalists for the Miss Softball award as a senior. She still holds Alpena’s program records for single-season wins (34), strikeouts (359) and ERA (0.47) and as well as the records for career wins (80), strikeouts (896) and ERA (0.88).

While Garant was a softball stalwart for Alpena, she also managed to find time to excel in basketball, volleyball and track.

On the basketball court, Garant was also an all-state performer and earned academic all-state honors in 2008. She was also a two-time first team all-Big North selection and held the program’s career record for three-pointers until 2012. Garant also earned academic all-state honors in volleyball in 2008 and excelled for Alpena as a outside hitter.

While Garant excelled in several sports, track and field ultimately took her to the next level.

She dabbled in the sport in junior high and found that she fit well in the throwing events. At Alpena, Garant became a standout for the Wildcats in the shot put. While she didn’t compete in every meet, her father, Alpena track coach Jack Gebauer, made a deal with softball coach Paul Marwede to have her compete in some of Alpena’s bigger events. It paid off as Garant won the Big North title in shot put every year from 2006-2008 and won a regional title in 2008.

When it came time for college, the opportunities Garant found at the U.S. Air Force Academy were too good to pass up.

“There was a lot of opportunity through Air Force: the leadership Air Force would offer, being able to serve my country and getting a guaranteed job,” Garant said. “It gave you a team away from home. When you’re going through the day-to-day rigors of the academy, having practice and teammates that knew what you were going through (was very helpful).”

Garant earned seven letters while throwing the hammer, weight, javelin and shot put for the Falcons. Her personal outdoor bests in the shot put and hammer are still ranked in the top 15 in the school record book.

Garant graduated from Alpena in 2008 and her wait for a Hall of Fame call has been relatively quick. She’s appeared on the ballot every year since 2013 and earned a spot in the Hall of Fame on her sixth try. Now that it’s finally here, Garant is thankful to be joining so many local greats.

“I’m honored that everyone recognized my accomplishments,” Garant said. “It’s a testament to everyone that helped me along the way.”