By Chesley Oxendine
Fort Gibson High School senior Hannah Cantrell said she always wanted to go to Oklahoma Baptist University.
“My parents raised me Southern Baptist and OBU’s a Southern Baptist school, so that’s where I want to be,” Cantrell said.
The champion swimmer is getting her wish courtesy of Assistant Athletic Director Jack Teavey. Cantrell signed for OBU’s swim team last Friday, hoping to continue the medal-winning career she began in high school.
“It was just kind of peaceful when I found out,” Cantrell said. “The excitement hasn’t quite hit me yet, but it will when it gets closer.”
Her mother, Darla Cantrell, thinks it might have been divine intervention that gave Hannah the opportunity.
“She's had cousins and friends that have gone there and that's just where her heart's desire has wanted to go,” Darla said. “This may be God’s way of getting her into the school.”
The senior has earned numerous awards during her tenure on Fort Gibson’s swim team, said Head Coach Connie Dean.
“She’s been a state medalist, placing in the top eight all three years on the team,” Dean said. “She was state champion in the 50 meter freestyle last year and state champion in the 100 meter free style the year before. She was on the state champion 200 meter relay, and they actually hold the state record.”
She earned all those awards while also playing basketball — which speaks brightly of Hannah’s future once she solely focuses on swimming, Dean said.
“She had to split time with basketball. She doesn't practice all the time with us, so there's no telling how good she can get when she's just practicing the one sport,” she said.
Dean said she knew she had a winner on her hands when she first met Hannah as a child.
“We knew all along. We could tell way back in Tiger Sharks (Fort Gibson’s youth swim team) that she was going to be pretty special,” Dean said. “Hannah is just a great athlete and a tremendous competitor.”
In fact, Dean has high hopes for Hannah’s final state run with her team, despite a challenging setback when the senior came down with mono earlier in the school year.
“That just kind of devastated her senior year,” Dean said. “She missed several meets and several basketball games, and had to fight to get back into shape — but that means she might be at her peak when state comes around.”
Darla said that even though Hannah’s “not quite over” her sickness yet, she has “fought back hard.”
“It made her miss those sports, and it made her count her blessings,” Darla said.
Hannah has an academic and a swimming scholarship — which will entail the same kind of hard work she’s been doing throughout high school, her mother said.
“They have four hours of workouts almost every day,” Darla said. “Swimming will be like her job now.”
That’s something Hannah is prepared to deal with, Hannah said.
“I'm not really looking forward to it, but that is what comes along with the territory,” she said.