ANNA SMITTEN BY EXTENDED SIUSLAW FAMILY PARTS OF ARTICLE PUBLISHED IN EXPLODING WHALE SPORTS, OREGON
Belgium exchange student Anna speaks four languages. Five, if you count superlative as one. “I love Siuslaw. I couldn’t have asked for a better school,” Anna said, in the afterglow of her second Senior Night as a Viking. “It has been awesome. The first day (of school), everybody was like super-nice to me.”
Anna was one of three seniors honored Tuesday night at Glen Butler Court, along with center Taylor Dotson and point guard Sierra Potter. All three were in the starting lineup as the Vikings closed their home schedule with a 58-34 Far West League loss to the Douglas Trojans. Siuslaw, 1-8 in league and 5-16 overall, plays at North Bend on Friday in the finale of the 2015-16 girls basketball season. It seemingly has passed in a nanosecond for Anna. “It’s all going by so fast,” she said. “Too fast.” The 5-foot-3 pixie from Malmedy, Belgium, fit right in as a Viking, in the classroom, on the court and in the community.
“Anna’s the hardestworking girl on the whole team,” Siuslaw coach Clint Tatum said. “She shows up for every practice with a smile, and she works harder than anyone else does.” That’s a superlative in itself. Tatum is never short of praise when it comes to the work ethic of his young Vikings. “I’m proud of the team, proud of my bench, how hard they work,” he said. Anna has been a proud member of that bench. She has scored one point this season, and it was against Douglas in January in Winston.
“My best memory is when I shot my first basket, my first point,” she said. “Everyone was cheering for me. “It’s those moments you really feel like that you have friends and everyone is supporting you. It’s amazing.” Anna logged more playing time on the Vikings volleyball team. It’s her natural game, a sport she’s played at the club level in Belgium for some eight years. “School (here) is different from home,” she said. “We don’t have sports at school. We only have PE. So we have clubs.”
She was game for new experiences here.
She really wasn’t prepared for it. “At first, I couldn’t believe how many would come and watch the team play, cheer for the team,” Anna said. “It’s really great. I think it brings everybody together. That’s amazing.” Her transition has been eased by her adopted American family, Kelly and Paul Potter and their daughter Sierra. “The Potter family, I have no words. They’re amazing,” Anna said. “They’re my family. I couldn’t have asked for a better family. It’s perfect. “I love them so much.” She’s grown especially close to Sierra. “I love her. She’s my sister,” Anna said. “She helps me so much. We’re really close, and I’m really sad that I will have to leave her.”
Anna will be returning to Belgium soon after the end of school. She speaks Dutch, English, French and German, and plans to study languages at a Belgian university. “I’ll probably teach languages,” she said. “I like to help people, like students, to understand and love a language, like I love English.” First there’s a basketball season to finish. Then she plans her first attempt at track and field this spring. “I’m not sure what I’ll try,” Anna said. “Probably run, but I’ll try something. I love the adventure, meeting new people, trying new things. “I have made some really good friends here. It’s been incredible.”
For the little Belgian girl with the big smile, it’s been superlative.