Annie Flood of South Salem High School competes in sitting soccer and hopes to make it to the Tokyo Paralympic Games. (Brandon Snider photo)

Annie Flood had been playing volleyball for several years when a summer clinic in eighth grade introduced her to a new version of the sport.

At a camp for amputees, Flood tried sitting volleyball, a version of the game where players sit on the court and can only move using their upper body.

Flood was accustomed to strapping on her prosthetic leg to play standing with her middle school classmates, but she gave sitting volleyball a try.

“At first, it was really hard. And I was used to being able to run and jump,” she said.

Now 18, Flood spent her senior year training with the U.S. women’s sitting volleyball team in Oklahoma while attending online classes at South Salem High School.

She’s hoping to be one of the dozen team members selected to compete this summer in the Tokyo Paralympic Games.

“The chance to be able to compete at that high of a level with some of the best athletes in the world and know that I’m capable of that is a really cool feeling,” she said.

Flood was born without a fibula, or lower leg bone, in her right leg, and three toes on her foot.

“It looked like a little dinosaur,” Flood said.

Her femur was shorter, making walking difficult. Her parents decided to have her lower leg amputated when she was nine months old. She got her first prosthetic leg at 11 months.

Flood is matter-of-fact about her prosthetic and has occasionally used it for humor at school. Her sophomore year, she participated in South’s annual Halloween event where students dress up in themed costumes, decorate a door in the hallway and pass out candy to kids.

Lara Tiffin, the school principal, recalled finding Flood in front of a beach-themed door with her prosthetic leg removed and in the mouth of a large shark.

“Too much?” Flood asked her, gesturing at her dangling leg.

“Maybe a little,” Tiffin responded, concerned the display might scare younger kids.

Most of her volleyball teammates are also amputees. Flood joined in 2019 and is the youngest player.

Before Covid, she juggled team obligations with school, traveling from Salem to Oklahoma regularly for training. But when classes moved online, she realized the pandemic had a silver lining - she could relocate to Oklahoma and train daily with the team, doing her schoolwork in the afternoon.

“I don't have to live there. But it definitely helps my chances, because I'm practicing every day, and I'm getting so much better,” she said.

Annie Flood is graduating from South Salem High School and pursuing her volleyball dreams. (Photo by Kim Elsner Photography)

At South, Flood’s teachers said she’s easy to talk to and driven.

“She's so observant of other people in need. That's what she's drawn to is, ‘How can I help others?’” teacher Kathy August said.

August said even when Flood was away in Oklahoma, she made a point of contacting her teachers and classmates on Facetime and Zoom.

“She knows how to stay connected. And she's never let that part fall through the cracks, ever,” August said.

In the fall, Flood plans to attend Linfield University, the school nearly all of her family has graduated from. She’ll continue on Team USA and plans to study nursing, taking after her older sister.

She’ll learn in July whether she makes the roster for Tokyo and said she’s excited to travel with her teammates.

“These women are incredible. They’re so strong and they’re the best at what they do so it’s really cool I get to feel like I’m one of them,” she said.

Contact reporter Rachel Alexander: [email protected] or 503-575-1241.

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