New coach brings new attitude – and life lessons 

  • Written by Derek Johnson

It seems like yesterday that this reporter was writing about the promising freshman Laina Emerick. But that was three years ago. Today, Emerick and teammate Paulina Chalmers are seniors, serving as captains for the Falcon swim team.

DSC 0051Woodinville's Sophie Borozan (Photo by Derek Johnson)“It’s been a bit of a rough start but we’re getting the hang of it,” Chalmers said of the 2017 season. “But Coach George has been pushing us hard, and our team bonding has been super strong.”

“Coach George” would be George Sayah, who took over the Woodinville swim and dive program after longtime coach Annie Price stepped down. Emerick and Chalmers both expressed gratitude and affection for Price, but also appreciation for Sayah’s approach to coaching.

“Coach George knows how to push us hard but he also knows our breaking points as well,” Emerick said.

“Because at some point girls are going to stop trying if it gets too [militaristic]. George makes sure that we feel supported in all areas including academics.”

DSC 0057Woodinville junior Pacsual Oducado prepares to race (Photo by Derek Johnson) “Practices I love,” Chalmers said. “Coach George pushes us individually a lot during practice. In the past our practices have been more easy-going. But George pushes us and also lets us have bonding time, some time to work on cheers and play games, so practices are really something to look forward to.”

Sayah smiled when told of the girls’ comments.

“We run this program just like we would run a collegiate program,” he said. “We obviously don’t have the same amount of time and resources, but every day we choose to focus on something. We try to have theme days and I find that it helps them to know what to expect going into each day. It also helps them to incentivize what we’re trying to do in the water.”

As of this writing, Woodinville has a 1-2 record. This includes a 115-23 shellacking of Bothell on September 19th.  Emerick has been battling knee and ankle injuries. But she hopes to get back to full health by season’s end.

The girls were asked to describe how they’ve changed since their freshmen seasons.

“As a freshman I wanted to beat my best times at every single meet,” Emerick said. “But now as a senior-- even though I’m still doing well in the meets-- I’ve definitely learned that meets are for fun and team bonding and stuff. I don’t have to set a record every time out for it to be a good meet.”

“I completely agree with Laina on that one,” Chalmers said. “When I first came in to swimming I was all about doing well during meets and impressing the coach. I came in with my older sister and I noticed she was in it to have fun with her friends and do her best but not be bummed out about races if she [didn’t set the world on fire].

“I’ve learned that the team is so much more,” Chalmers added. “It’s all about bringing in the freshmen and sophomores and letting them feel included. And it’s all about having fun with each other, regardless of how good your time was.”      

Emerick suddenly looked wistful.

“It’s kind of sad seeing how the new girls are all improving and knowing that we won’t be here next year to see that improvement,” Emerick said. “We will be off at college, and won’t be here with them. So it’s kind of sad. Life goes on.” 

The list of WHS swimmers who have qualified for the post season (as of September 20)
Kyra Asher
Gills Battalio
Amy Borer
Sophie Borozan
Paulina Chalmers
Sheridan Douglas
Lauren Drews
Laina Emerick
Sarah Epley
Ava Foltz
Sofia Fulkerson
Jaiven Gill
Bree Gummer
Thea Loeser
Danielle Mann
Abbie Mosset
Kylie Mosset
Katie Ragan
Megan Shaull

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