NORMAN, Okla. -- “That’s going to be you someday.”
Those words have stuck with Anne Carter over the years, even though it has been a decade since her mother Nancy said them to her while watching Anne’s babysitter compete in the Texas high school state tennis championships.
As Anne enters her third year on the Oklahoma women’s tennis team, Nancy could not have predicted Anne’s success more accurately. Anne just wishes she were still here to witness it all.
“My mom and I started playing tennis together when I was eight years old,” said Anne. “She really inspired me to get involved in the sport.”
Nancy, who was formerly a cheerleader at Oklahoma State, began playing in a tennis league and encouraged Anne to pick up the game with her. After a year of playing once or twice a week together, Nancy persuaded Anne to begin taking lessons.
“My mom would come and watch my lessons all the time,” said Anne. “Some of my best memories are of the summer tournaments I would play in. Having her come watch meant so much to me.”
At age 10, Anne and her mother attended the Texas high school state tennis championships to root on Anne’s babysitter, Jenny Gray. It was on that day that Nancy said the words that Anne will always remember.
“We were watching Jenny play, and my mom said, That’s going to be you someday,’” Anne said. “She was proud of me, and she somehow knew I would make it that far.”
Unfortunately, Nancy did not live to see her win a state championship. When Anne was in sixth grade, her mother suffered a heart attack during her sleep, which caused several irregular heartbeats. She never woke up.
“It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to go through,” said Anne. “She was my role model and my best friend, and it was so unexpected.”
Over the next few years, Anne grew up quickly and became a role model for her siblings, especially her younger sister Katie.
“When our mom died, she really helped out a lot,” said Katie. “She would help me with my homework and pick out my clothes, and she taught me how to put on makeup. She was sort of like a mom, but she was more of a role model.”
Their past, Katie says, is the reason they remain close to this day.
“Before this happened, she would pick on me some, but that all changed when our mom died. I knew she would always be there, and I could always count on her.”
Anne says that despite juggling her family, school and tennis, she never thought of it as a struggle.
“It never seemed that hard because it was something that had to be done, and it was natural to put my family as my first priority,” Anne said.
Even though her family now took precedence in her life, Anne never lost sight of fulfilling the vision that her mother had shared with her.
“I wanted to make her proud, and I wanted to win a state championship for my mom,” she said.
In ninth grade, Anne joined the Edmond Memorial High School tennis team with the goal of winning a state title for her mother. But she didn’t win just one. She won two.
As a sophomore, Anne took home her first singles title after facing future Sooner teammate Christy Greely in No. 2 singles. But it was her win as a junior that meant more.
“When I played Christy, I was expected to win,” she said. “But my junior year, I was the underdog. I wanted to play the best I could because I knew that one was for my mom.”
This time, Anne faced Greenly’s older sister, Timberly, for the No. 1 singles title. Although she was expected to lose, Anne picked up one of the best wins of her career: a 6-1, 6-1, victory in straight sets.
“It wasn’t even close,” said Anne. “So I knew that it was supposed to happen. That win was for my mom.”
Because of her high school success, Anne was offered a spot on the Oklahoma women’s tennis team. Each year that she has been at OU, Anne has seen more playing time, and her game has only improved. Last season, she tallied perfect records, 3-0 and 1-0, in singles and doubles.
Her improvements on the court have not gone unnoticed. As she entered her junior year, Anne was awarded a tennis scholarship for the first time in her OU career. Her hard work has paid off. And she has her mother to thank.
“My mom was my best friend and role model, and I basically want to live a life like she did,” said Anne. “Now that she is not here, I want to make her proud in every area of my life. After losing someone so close to me I now know that I can overcome anything, and I feel that I am stronger person because of it.”
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Sooner Spotlight by Renata Hays
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