Minnetonka swimming team embraces teammate Ava Muench: “She’s the life of the party”

Ava Muench has loved swimming since she was young.

“Ava has been a part of swimming lessons since she was a baby,” Carrie Muench, Ava’s mom, said. “She’s swam in community swim lessons, she’s swam in adaptive swim clubs, Special Olympics swimming.”

This fall, she decided she wanted to swim with the high school team.

“What I like about swimming is probably most everything,” Ava said.

So the coach turned to the team leaders and they adopted Ava.

“You’d roll up and she’s like the life of the party,” Annie Hipper said. “She would say, ‘I’m so excited.’ She would be wearing a purple swimsuit, so excited, and she would be waving her arms in the air.”

They became teammates.

“I mean, I just see her as a teammate and so I was like, you know what? Let’s just go swim with her. Make sure she feels included and know that she is a welcome member of this team,” Rylie Ulett said.

They taught Ava plenty, but there has been more in what Ava has taught her teammates.

“I remember making a joke one time about how we were gonna crush the other team, and she said, ‘That doesn’t even matter. It matters that you have fun and swim your hardest.'” McKayla Kangas said.

These teammates turned into a fall to remember.

“The key was the teammates,” Carrie Muench said. “The key was the coaches being willing to let that dream even become a possibility.”

In the team’s final regular season meet, Ava competed with pure joy.

“We’re very proud of her. She had a great last meet. She did the 100 free and the 50 free,” Morgan Raether said.

It was a fall that was win-win for everyone.

“Sometimes we take it for granted a little bit,” Coach John Bradley said. “But to see that and to see somebody who it matters so much. It makes their day and it makes them want to compete harder.”

And that kind of experience and those kinds of teammates and friendships is hard for a mother to describe.

“And I think that … I’m grateful, grateful,” Carrie Muench said.

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