Anticipation can be felt rippling through the pool like a cascading wave. Fans begin flocking to the water, jockeying for position. Nobody around Gilley Pool wants to miss when Anna Ming enters the water.
The 18-year-old member of McMinnville Swim Team has quickly become a fan favorite, either when she’s competing on her own or teaming with her sister Ella in relays. Anna, a special needs athlete, has been an inspiration to the team and her smile and happiness at meets has become infectious.
“She’s having fun and getting a workout at the same time,” said Anna’s mother Cortney Ming. “She’s played other sports before, but swimming is something she’s really taken to. I think it’s great for Anna and also great for the other kids to see she can do it.”
Anna rejoined the McMinnville Swim Team this year, rekindling her love for the water. Her mother mentioned how Anna doesn’t like getting “super hot and sweaty,” during other sports, so being in the pool has been a perfect fit.
During Thursday’s meet, Anna took part in three competitions. She was on her own in the 50-meter freestyle, backstroke and butterfly, then swam one leg of the 100-meter medley and freestyle relays.
Swim coach Paige Northcutt was happy to get Anna on board this season. At first, she wanted to let Anna ease into competition, but her parents had no problem making sure their daughter is pushed.
“We’re very thankful for Paige, the coaching staff and all the volunteers,” said Cortney. “She’s been very good about including Anna and holding her to the same standards. Anna is always pushing to finish.”
Nolan Ming, Anna’s father, is no stranger to competition. He’s run in some of the most grueling races in North America, finishing several 100-mile courses. That same competitive fire has started to burn in his daughter.
“During Thursday’s meet, I noticed on the relay how focused Anna was,” said Nolan. “As her sister Ella was coming down the lane, Anna was cheering her on and watching the swimmers on either side. You could tell she wanted to win. As soon as her sister touched the wall, she was in.”
Ella, 11, has treasured swimming with her sister. The two are inseparable in the water, where they practice two hours daily. Ella has helped her sister embrace diving – something Anna wasn’t doing at the start of the season – and worked with her on making turns.
The love coming from the pool washes over the entire Ming family.
“I love the swim team,” said Nolan. “It’s so exciting they are willing to work with Anna and people with special needs. It’s not something easy to find. Paige, her coaches and the volunteers are all about it.
“It says a lot about our community. I’m really proud of Anna and I think everybody who knows her is too. We couldn’t ask for a better group.”
Fans will have two more chances to see Anna swim at Gilley Pool. McMinnville Swim Team is scheduled to compete at home Thursday, June 27 and Tuesday, July 2.
It won’t be hard to know when Ming makes her way to the edge of the water. When she splashes in, the roar will be heard throughout the complex.