By Jeff Shearer
AUBURN, Ala. - Maggie Foster swam the first 25 meters, then flipped and kicked against the wall, propelling her toward the finish of the 50 freestyle in Auburn's Orange & Blue intrasquad meet.
Cheering from the stands, Maggie's mother was taken by surprise at her daughter's technique.
"In her whole swimming career, I've never seen her do a flip turn like she did today, so that was fun," Penny Foster said. "That was exciting because everyone here has been so warm and welcoming, and really embraced Maggie during this event."
"I like it to be fun," said Maggie, a 13-year-old student at East Samford School who wore an orange Auburn swim cap during her event.
Maggie, who has Down syndrome, joined the Tigers for Friday's preseason scrimmage thanks to Ashley Moates, whose Miss Auburn platform, AUsome Dreams, creates opportunities at Auburn for people with disabilities to pursue their passions.
"It's been really exciting to see that dream come true for her, and the opportunity at Auburn to come true for her," Moates said. "To see her interacting with the Auburn swimming team, and her getting to talk to them, and getting to do something she loved her today, it was just really incredible."
Maggie visited with Auburn's swimmers, toured the James E. Martin Aquatics Center with swimming and diving coach Brett Hawke, and yelled "War Eagle, hey!" with her new teammates.
"She's awesome," Hawke said. "She's so full of life and happiness. She loves everything about this whole experience. It's so enjoyable to have her part of the team. I know she's really been embraced by the team, which is great."
A lifelong swimmer who competes on Opelika's Special Olympics swim team, Maggie demonstrated a high level of conditioning by showing no signs of fatigue after her race.
"No, sir," she replied when asked if she got tired.
Moates, whose sister, Anna, has Down syndrome, learned of Maggie's love of swimming through a friend in Auburn's Best Buddies program.
"This has been an amazing event," Penny Foster said. "I'm really thankful for Ashley for embracing the community of children with special needs and taking them to fulfill their dreams."
Any apprehension Maggie felt about competing with older swimmers quickly dissipated, her mother said.
"When Maggie first came in, she was overwhelmed, looking at everything and checking everything out," Penny said. "This is a great life experience for her."
-- Jeff Shearer (@jeff_shearer) October 11, 2017
Jeff Shearer is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @jeff_shearer