Our Stories: Alexa Anton-Ohlmeyer
Georgia Tech women's tennis player has been inspired by siblings to serve others
Alexa Anton-Ohlmeyer (as told to Justin Fedich)
"Our Stories" is a RamblinWreck.com feature that provides first-person stories from current Georgia Tech student-athletes on their journey through academics, competition and life once their athletic careers are over. These young men and women represent the ideals of what it means to be a STUDENT-athlete at Georgia Tech. These are their stories.
My name is Alexa Anton-Ohlmeyer. I am the senior captain of the Georgia Tech tennis team, but my story stretches much further than a serve or a volley.
I was born in Rancho Mirage, California, to Tom and Wendy. My parents divorced when I was 3, and my mother remarried to Drew Ohlmeyer. When I was in third grade, I noticed that every one of my classmates had the same last name as their mother, and I wanted to be the same. I went home and asked my mother if I could legally change my last name, and she was impressed I had thought to do that all by myself. We stuck a hyphen on my last name, and I've been the only Alexa Anton-Ohlmeyer I know ever since.
It was one of many times I tackled a challenge earlier than most would.
My name is long, but my nicknames are short. My friends call me Lex and my younger siblings call me Biggy. I'm an older sister to them, but throughout their lives I've been so much more.
My younger sister, Skyler, is 12, and my younger brother, Jett, is 10. They are two of the greatest inspirations in my life. Each day, I make sure to return the favor to be an inspiration to them.
Jett was born with a rare motility disorder that causes his muscles and nerves to not function correctly. He is hooked up to intravenous 12 hours each night. The doctors told him he would never be able to eat normally and he could forget about playing sports.
He had other plans.
After nearly 10 surgeries, Jett is the president of his fifth grade class, captain of his flag football team, member of the chess club and also excels at golf. What's more valuable than his improbable resumé is his kind heart and willingness to help anyone. Jett has defied the odds, and it's made me realize that I can overcome anything too.
I failed my first test as a student at Georgia Tech. Coming into school with a 3.8 grade point average, I knew Georgia Tech wasn't going to be easy, but I also didn't think I'd struggle. My freshman earth and atmospheric sciences class gave me a rude awakening. Although that failed test was the only grade below a B I had ever gotten, I made sure it wasn't going to happen again. I worked hard the rest of the semester to get a B in the class, and it was a growing experience.
While I still had some growing to do when I reached Georgia Tech, I knew I had it in me. I'd been learning how to be a grown up ever since I was a child.
Jett spent most of his time at UCLA Children's Hospital as a young child, and my mother needed my help taking Skyler to volleyball practice and tutoring after school. I had to be there for my younger siblings out of necessity. As a result, I became close with both Skyler and Jett.
Skyler is an amazing athlete, and like Jett, has an amazing outlook on life. She and Jett both want to be a Division-I athlete just like me. The four schools on their list are Georgia Tech, Notre Dame, Stanford and UCLA. Those are high aspirations for two children who are at least a couple years from reaching high school.
The ambitious goals they set keep me going. I've noticed that if I have any bad habits, Skyler emulates them. Same goes for any good habits I have, so I try to be a positive influence as much as I can.
I moved back to California when I was 9 years old after a short time living in Columbus, Georgia, with my mother and stepfather. My mother decided the move back to California was best to get my mind off a tragic loss in our family. My younger brother, Jackson Ohlmeyer, was born early and struggled with complications from pneumonia before passing away at a young age.
Upon our move to Calabasas, California, I needed something to get my mind off losing Jackson. I found tennis. I fell in love with the sport early on. It wasn't long before I found out I was really good at tennis. My coach told me I could become a professional at the sport if I tried hard enough.
I was the only 15-year-old I knew who voluntarily woke up before school to do push-ups and sit-ups in her garage. I was determined to be successful no matter what it took.
I had no reason not to believe my coach that I could be a professional tennis player someday. Everyone in my family was either a professional athlete or was involved in sports in some way. Why not me?
One of my goals upon arriving to Georgia Tech was to be a professional tennis player, but I also wanted to make sure I was a great teammate and friend. I've since learned that the latter is more valuable than any individual accomplishment.
My junior year, I was named co-captain of my tennis team. That season, I was put into a leadership position but I was not yet ready to lead. We had the same exact team from the year before, and with a diverse group of people who didn't always see eye to eye, it wasn't the easiest job. Although our team played well that season, we weren't getting along like I wanted. As co-captain, I took responsibility for that and as a result became quiet and distant.
I was named captain for my senior year, and I was determined to do better. Over the summer, I spent numerous hours reading and developing my personal leadership style. I consulted some Georgia Tech coaches and mentors, including strength and conditioning coach Scott McDonald, former senior associate athletic director of female sports Theresa Wenzel and head coach Rodney Harmon, to get advice on how to be a stronger leader.
That summer, I had an unforgettable conversation with Jett that changed my ideas about what I want to do after college. We were at Laguna Beach, after spending many hours building an impressive sandcastle, complete with tunnels, moats and drawbridges. I asked Jett if he wanted to take his shirt off, and he said he didn't want people to see his scars. I asked Jett if he knew his story, the odds that he's had to overcome to accomplish all he's accomplished so far. He said he didn't realize that he's defied odds because the challenges he faces each day have become normal to him.
I told Jett he should be proud of his scars because they show that he's a fighter, and there is nothing that can bring him down. I won't forget the look in his eyes that day. It inspired me to pursue a career in administration for children's hospitals and healthcare.
My senior year has been amazing so far. I am no longer putting pressure on myself to be a professional athlete because there is so much more to success than excelling as an individual. I have united a team by becoming a better captain, and I've inspired my younger brother to be proud of himself despite the daily challenges he endures.
At the end of the season, I will retire the racket for good, but it won't be the last time you see me serving. From a young age, I've had to put others first and I've seen that making a difference in a young person's life is invaluable. I want to continue to serve others by inspiring children who have to face similar obstacles Jett has had to face.
Perhaps I will find myself on a different path in life. But wherever I end up, I know that I will be making Skyler and Jett proud. That is where I find my inspiration to be a better person each day.