Tennis Association recognizes Summers as top female player
May Summers volleyed her way to top honors from the Greater Columbus Tennis Association, being named its Female Tennis Player of the Year after only three years playing the sport.
May, who will graduate from Westerville South High School this year, is set apart by her determination and by her fierce serve, said her coach, Marlena Smith, who nominated her for the award.
"Tennis-wise, May never gives up on anything she does. She is one of those athletes who work so hard, not only at practice, but then she goes home and works on it there, "Smith said. "She has an amazing serve, and it often (befuddles) her opponents."
The other thing that sets May apart is that she competes in the sports through the Westerville Special Olympics, and is the only Special Olympics tennis player in Ohio who competes in a motorized wheelchair.
With Smith's help, May has met and worked with other wheelchair-bound tennis players from across the country.
An added complication for May, however, is she often isn't allowed to use common wheelchair adaptations of the sport, because she competes against able-bodied players, Smith said.
"She's really had to adapt to be able to play," Smith said. "I think she thrives at it."
May's mother, Ann Summers, said May always has loved sports and worked hard to be active.
About three years ago, she looked into the Westerville Special Olympics on her own and decided to join, Mrs. Summers said.
"She loves to be active, and she's really pretty good at it, in spite of the wheelchair," Mrs. Summers said.
Mrs. Summers said May's positive attitude kept her from worrying about how her daughter would fare in sports that are less common for wheelchair-bound athletes.
"She's always been upbeat," Mrs. Summers said. "She does the best with what she's got."
Since joining the Westerville Special Olympics, May has competed in basketball, bowling, softball and track, though she said tennis is her favorite.
Though May said she had some nerves about participating in the sport, she's never regretted taking up the racket.
"I'm glad I did because I love it," she said. "I learned to overcome it very quickly. It's the same sportsmanship, just different people."
Smith said that attitude prompted her to recruit May to join the tennis team.
"I actually begged her to come try tennis," Smith said. "I was very excited to get her into the program, and the fact that she showed interest was great."
May has been a great addition to the team not only because of her own tennis prowess, Smith said, but because of her eagerness to work with younger athletes to help them develop their skills.
"When she's on the court, she's not just out there for herself, she's out there to help anyone else on the court who needs help," Smith said. "She just put so much of herself into the program this year."
May said she has simple advice for athletes of any ability looking to try a new sport: Don't hold back.
"If you're interested in a sport, no matter the disability, just go for it. You just work around the challenge," she said. "Don't let others hold you back. Go for it."