EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the 2nd chapter in a 13-part series saluting the 2020 Ashland County Sports Hall of Fame class.
ASHLAND -- Ann Burns Tolliver was born on March 5, 1967, in Ashland to David and Carol Burns as the youngest daughter with four older brothers: Steve, Bob, Joe, and Tom.
Her parents always worked with her and had her competing in athletics at a young age. Her family helped develop her love of sports and competition while her dad instilled in her the value of practicing to improve her skills by taking hours of his time to work with her.
Growing up on Ellis Street, Brookside Park was an extension of her backyard. Ann was involved in Brookside’s recreational activities from playing in the summer tennis league and on a traveling tennis team, participating in softball leagues and on all-star teams, refining her dribbling and shooting skills at the basketball courts for junior high, and, of course, swimming at the pool.
Although swimming was her favorite sport, that love didn’t automatically develop until her father took Ann and her neighbor to the pool one evening. Ann, afraid of the deep end, had to sit on the edge of the pool while her friend swam to her dad and were launched back to the side. Unable to be a bystander, it was at that point Ann jumped in, swam for her life to be part of the fun, and never looked back.
She continued her swimming with the YMCA Aqua Aces in the winter and with the Wooster Freelander swimming team in the summer into her high school years.
At Ashland High School, Ann played tennis in the fall, and was part of a “Dynamic Duo” with Melissa Rowan playing doubles all four years. In tennis they won four straight Cardinal Conference championships, advanced to districts all four years, and were Co-MVPs in 1982 and in 1983. Ann was a co-captain for her junior and senior years. Ann was also one of the first four-year varsity letterwinners in Ashland High School history.
In the winter season, Ann chose swimming, not basketball, to become her main focus! She specialized in long distance freestyle and butterfly. At the end of her high school career, she owned seven individual records and two more in relays of the 11 events and still holds the 500 freestyle record today. All four years she advanced to the district swimming meet and was named to the Northwest Ohio All-District Swim Team her junior and senior year.
Her junior season, she advanced to state where she placed 16th in the 500 freestyle. She was the Most Valuable Swimmer for all four years and was Co-Captain for two years. She was one of the first four-year varsity letterwinners in AHS history as a swimmer. She ended her high school career being named the 1985 AHS Girl Athlete of the Year.
Ann continued swimming at Wittenberg University and is one of a few Tiger athletes to advance to national competition four straight years. As a first-year swimmer, Ann set one pool record and seven school records as she advanced to the NCAA Division III Championships and competed in four events.
The next three years, she earned eight Honorable Mention All-America designations and one All-America honor for her seventh-place finish in the freestyle while Wittenberg claimed 17th place in the 1989 NCAA Division III Championships, the best finish in school history.
Upon graduation, she held five school records in the butterfly and distance freestyle events, and two more in relay events. Ann Burns Tolliver was inducted into the Wittenberg Athletic Hall of Fame in 2003.
An elementary education major at Wittenberg, Ann taught at Berry Middle School in Lebanon, Ohio, and in 1997 she was one of 150 educators in the nation to receive the Milken Family Foundation National Educator Award in the amount of $25,000 presented by Ohio Governor George Voinvoich and John Goff, Ohio’s Superintendent of Public Instruction, for excellence in teaching.
She was instrumental in securing grants and creating Language Arts curriculum there. She initiated the school’s Power of the Pen program and was been named Who’s Who Among American teachers. For two years she worked on the Ohio Department of Education SchoolNet program. Currently she teaches fifth grade at Eaton Community Schools and now has over 31 years in education.
She and husband, Ty, reside in Eaton and have four children: Adam, Elizabeth, Aaron, and Evan.
While sports provided Ann with the concepts of motivation, working hard, cooperation, and the drive to do well, she has been blessed with wonderful coaches, teachers, friends, and the love of her whole family which helped support, encourage, and guide her throughout her life’s journey. She could not have accomplished this without them.