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VOL. 46 | NO. 17 | Friday, April 29, 2022

Time for ‘Summitt’ to ascend Vols fans’ baby name list?

By Rhiannon Potkey

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Summitt Hall Ojeda was welcomed into the world April 9.

A few years before they would try to become parents, Alison Ojeda and Erin Hall were on a walk discussing their desire to have a child.

The talk naturally turned to potential names. Regardless of the baby’s gender, they both wanted to name their child after a strong female presence. They wanted to honor someone who made a huge impact on them.

Ojeda, the women’s tennis coach and a former player at the University of Tennessee, asked “What do you think about Summitt?”

Hall, a Knoxville native, instantly knew the connection and responded, “I love it!”

The two kept the name quiet until they welcomed their first child into the world this month.

Summitt Hall Ojeda was born April 9 at 8:57 a.m., weighing 7 pounds, 8.6 ounces and measuring 20 inches long.

The namesake of legendary Lady Vols women’s basketball coach Pat Summitt was adorned in Tennessee orange with a bow on her head and Vols foam finger nestled beside her.

“Not once did we think any other name came close,” Ojeda says. “From the moment we first talked about it, we both knew that was what we wanted. There was only one name really.”

Ojeda and Hall spoke with Pat Summitt’s son, Tyler, to get his blessing before little Summitt was born. They had friends contact former Lady Vols star Candace Parker to let her in on the secret.

Everyone was thrilled once they learned about the name, and nobody in the state of Tennessee needed any explanation.

“It just brings back so many stories for them personally and so many memories of Pat and how Pat influenced their life,” Ojeda adds. “It’s been pretty cool. If Summitt meets someone that knew Pat, it’s most likely they will have a positive memory to share with her as well.”

Ojeda first met Pat Summitt on her own official visit to Tennessee. Summitt, who died in 2016 after a five-year battle with early-onset Alzheimer’s, brought all the recruits into her locker room to speak to them and answer their questions.

“You left there just feeling like if you were willing to work in life you could accomplish anything,” Ojeda recalls. “That led me to coming to Tennessee. Pat was a big reason.”

Although Hall didn’t play sports at UT, she was well aware of Summitt’s immense presence in the athletic world.

“Just living here in Knoxville and going to Lady Vol games, I knew how much of an impact Summitt had,” Hall says. “There weren’t as many females to look up to then, but she was such an accomplished and strong presence who I really admired.”

Ojeda, 42, and Hall, 39, used many of the traits Summitt valued in their attempt to have a child. They were persistent, determined and resilient while overcoming adversity.

Ojeda had five failed intrauterine insemination (IUI) attempts, and had a miscarriage at 10 weeks in 2020.

“Neither one of us knew how likely it was to have a miscarriage,” Ojeda notes. “We knew it was hard to get pregnant as you get older because you hear things about the (biological) clock ticking. But we learned a lot.”

The two eventually tried in vitro fertilization (IVF) and drove to Nashville multiple times during the process. Ojeda had to miss some UT practices for her appointments and get injections during tennis road trips.

She would find restrooms at airports or drive from the courts back to the hotel at matches to receive her daily shots.

Knowing her players wanted to become parents one day, Ojeda was completely transparent throughout her journey to becoming a mom.

“The team has been part of this whole process,” Ojeda adds. “They have seen all the ups and downs through this entire process. That is the way I wanted it and the way they wanted it.”

From the moment Ojeda told UT athletic director Danny White and the rest of the administration about her pregnancy, she felt nothing but unwavering support.

“They have been unbelievable. The first thing Danny said to me is ‘Family comes first. I really believe that and you need to remind yourself of that,’” Ojeda says.

“He knew I may want to get back out there coaching, but everyone has just encouraged me to be a mom first. It’s really nice. Not every female coach feels that unfortunately.”

Ojeda saw the difference in treatment once people found out she was pregnant. As much progress as has been made in normalizing mothers coaching college programs, there are still gains to be made.

“I can’t tell you how many people asked me once they knew I was pregnant if I was going to stop coaching,” Ojeda says. “I mean, ‘Wow. No. I love my career and I love coaching and we have seen it done.’ You can be a great coach and a great parent at the same time. It just takes surrounding yourself with people that can really help out.”

Before the spring season started, Ojeda gave more responsibility to associate head coach Jarryd Chaplin, knowing she would have to step away at some point when Summitt was born. He ran practices even when Ojeda was there and had more of a voice in the talks before and after matches.

“He is outstanding. He is the best coach I have ever worked with,” Ojeda continues. “I trust him and lean on him a lot and he’s made this process so much easier on me and the team.”

Ojeda and Hall want to shower Summitt with constant remembrances of her namesake. They have posted Pat Summitt’s trademark “Definite Dozen” on the wall of her nursery alongside a picture of Summitt celebrating a title with a young Tyler by her side.

“When we were posting the Definite Dozen, we were laughing because this is so much more for us right now than Summitt. She won’t be able to read it for another few years,” adds Hall, a financial adviser. “But it just reminds Alison and I to be strong throughout this as well. That is really cool because parenthood is hard and this will be a constant reminder to have the strength and endurance and discipline and all that.”

Ojeda and Hall have asked friends and family members to send stories about Pat Summitt and other strong females who have inspired them in some way. They plan to put them all in a baby book for Summitt to read as she gets older.

At the hospital where Summitt was born, nurses remember when there was a run of Peytons in the nursery once Peyton Manning became the quarterback at UT.

They haven’t had any surges of Pats or Summitts over the years, but hope maybe others are inspired now that one has been welcomed into the world.

“Pat had such a positive influence on so many lives,” Ojeda says. “It’s really special to have our child named after someone we admire so much and was such a strong female role model.”

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