The 2023 winner of the Athena Award at Hastings High School is Ava McNamara, a star swimmer who, among other accomplishments, set a new section record in the 100 butterfly. 

She subsequently placed third in the 100 butterfly at the state meet and sixth in the 100 breaststroke. 

In April, McNamara attended a luncheon to celebrate the metro area’s Athena winners, and was accompanied by her parents, Crystal and Jim, and her sister, Jaida.

Winning the award, she said, was a big surprise. She found out when Trent Hanson, the assistant principal, director of athletics and activities at Hastings High School, called her into his office.

“I didn’t even know I was nominated for it,” she said. “I didn’t think there was a chance I’d get it. I was really surprised.”

McNamara said the highlight of her 2022-23 season was that section record in the 100 butterfly. That record, too, came as a surprise.

“I didn’t know what the record was before,” she said. “We walked out to the podium and they announced the times, and announced that I got the record. I didn’t know I was close to it. It was a really big surprise that I got it.”

Since fifth grade, McNamara has been a regular in the pool, starting first as a diver, then moving into swimming. She soon joined the Hastings Area Swim Team. 

“I started practicing and just fell in love with it, I guess,” she said.

During her career, she earned five varsity letters in swimming. She’s been a captain, a five-time All Conference pick. She’s a three-time section champion, a three-time state meet participant, a two-time honorable mention All-State pick and a two-time All-State pick.

She set two new individual HHS school records during her career, resetting each record three times and was named the section athlete of the year in girls swimming. 

When she was diving at Hastings Middle School, her coach, Briana Aarness, told her she might want to consider swimming, too. At first, McNamara wasn’t a big fan of the idea, but she agreed to give it a shot and it wasn’t long before she made a big name for herself in the pool.

“I’m glad she (convinced me to try swimming),” McNamara said. “I would have probably never tried swimming if it wasn’t for her.”

McNamara said she’s also thankful for her HAST coaches, the late Kim Olson and Chasi Riley, as well as the HHS coaches, including head coach Katie McAlpine. 


What’s next? 

This fall, McNamara will attend Oakland University in suburban Detroit, Michigan. 

“I went and visited their campus on an official tour, and met the team,” she said. “I just fell in love with the campus. It’s really nice, and there’s a new swimming facility. I really liked it. The team was super nice, and the pool was super nice. 

“I just decided that it was the best choice for me.”

She will be studying biomedical engineering. She hopes to get into a career that would see her making prosthetics. 

“I just think it’s super interesting,” she said. “Just being able to be able to give people the opportunity to do something they wouldn’t have been able to do.” 

McNamara has a 3.84 GPA at HHS, has earned multiple academic letters and is involved with the HHS Athlete Leadership Council. 



(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Thank you for taking part in our commenting section. We want this platform to be a safe and inclusive community where you can freely share ideas and opinions. Comments that are racist, hateful, sexist or attack others won’t be allowed. Just keep it clean. Do these things or you could be banned:

• Don’t name-call and attack other commenters. If you’d be in hot water for saying it in public, then don’t say it here.

• Don’t spam us.

• Don’t attack our journalists.

Let’s make this a platform that is educational, enjoyable and insightful.

Email questions to

Share your opinion


Join the conversation

Recommended for you