Anna Hutchins

Marshfield swimmer Anna Hutchins signs with Southwestern Oregon Community College as her parents Jodi and Brian look on Tuesday at Heritage Hall. 

COOS BAY — Marshfield’s Anna Hutchins had planned to start her college swimming career at a four-year school next fall, but then she started thinking about how many college credits she has already earned taking classes at Southwestern Oregon Community College and what another year in Coos Bay could do for her.

“A few months ago, I was like, I want to go to a four-year university,” she said. “But with SWOCC, I can grow as an athlete for free.”

On Tuesday, the state champion and school record holder signed a letter of intent to join the Lakers’ swim program in the fall.

“It’s the best opportunity to establish myself as a student athlete,” she said.

Hutchins will finish one year at SWOCC with three associates degrees and college swimming experience. She still plans to attend Fresno-Pacific University, where she will complete her English degree with plans to become a high school teacher.

She said her future coach approves of the decision and told her she could offer more scholarship money next year.

The senior standout’s decision was met with approval by her parents and her current coach.

“I look at the decision you’ve made and I see wisdom,” said Anna’s mom, Jodi.

“I’m really excited for her,” added Kathe McNutt, Marshfield’s coach. “It’s going to be a good fit for her.

“I’m excited for this next chapter. I think she’s got loads of potential. It will be fun to watch her here for a little bit.”

While Hutchins was signing her letter, her future teammates were in Buffalo, N.Y., preparing for this week’s NJCAA championships. She looks forward to seeing how the Lakers do, much as she looks forward to joining them next season.

She brings with her a pair of individual school records and a share of one relay record for Marshfield, plus the title she won in the 200-yard freestyle at the state meet a few weeks ago.

Plus, she brings a phenomenal team attitude.

“She’s been a tremendous leader and a great gal with the little kids,” McNutt said. “And everyone looks up to her.”

McNutt also is thrilled for Hutchins to work with SWOCC coach Sandra Bullock, who helped coach the young swimmers with McNutt before becoming coach of the Lakers.

Hutchins anticipates swimming a little bit of everything, or at least all the freestyle events for the Lakers, from her specialty 200 free up to the mile.

“Sandra said, ‘I can put you anywhere and you can do good,’” she said.

McNutt said one of the things that stands out about Hutchins, like most of Marshfield’s others swimmers, is involved in multiple activities, including choir and student council, and volunteers at the pool teaching the youngest swimmers in the summers.

“To me, it’s not just about the swimming — it’s about the woman she’s become,” McNutt said.

Jodi Hutchins expressed thanks to the large group of teammates and friends who came to Tuesday’s signing ceremony for all their support of her daughter along the way.

“The memories you are going to take with you are amazing,” she told her daughter, before turning toward the group and adding, “All of you played a big part in that.”

Brian Hutchins said his daughter has been a shining light for the family, always trying to be a friend for everyone, and recalled a poster Anna made when she was in fifth grade that called him her hero.

He turned the tables Tuesday.

“She’s my hero,” he said. “I admire her a lot.

“She has the perseverance to become something special.”

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Sports Editor John Gunther can be reached at 541-269-1222, ext. 241, or by email at john.gunther@theworldlink.com. Follow him on Twitter: @jguntherworld.