Epley bounces back from appendicitis to qualify for Districts

  • Written by Derek Johnson
Life can change in an instant. One moment, you’re a high school sophomore drifting off to sleep on a Thursday night. You’ve spent countless hours preparing for the big conference swim meet the next day. But then you wake up feeling pain. Suddenly you’re rushed into surgery.
Dive EplyWoodinville junior Sarah Epley (Photo by Derek Johnson) That was Sarah Epley’s story from October 2017.
“I went to bed and I woke up and my stomach hurt,” Epley said. “I couldn’t move without it hurting. But I have stomach pain often, so I didn’t think it was much. I was thinking I could go swim. But my dad is a doctor and he said let’s go to the ER just in case. It turns out my appendix had burst. I had surgery that morning. But we caught it early on, so it wasn’t as painful as it could have been.”
Woodinville coach George Sayah recalled the suddenness of it all.
“We finished up our workouts on a Thursday, to compete the next day,” he said. “And she was fine. And then I heard from her parents that she had been admitted to surgery. We got on the team bus on Friday and everyone was aware of the situation that she had had surgery.”
Epley had been on the verge of qualifying for Districts in multiple events.
“It was hard,” Sayah said. “I could tell it was difficult for her.  And from my standpoint as coach, I wanted it really badly for her too. It was a heartbreak for me, too.”
It was a month later that Epley learned of a stress fracture in her back. She couldn’t do much physical activity for months. She had to wait for her body to heal. This past spring, she began physical therapy. Then she joined her summer swim team and eased her way in.
“It was nice being back in the water doing physical activity,” Epley said. “I couldn’t do much. Pretty much PT exercises. I could only swim like 500 yards. It was a very slow process for me. I would do just a little bit at a time.”
By the time August rolled around, Epley was ready. She returned as a full member of the Woodinville Falcons roster. Sayah was appreciative of her attitude.
“She comes in with a very disciplined work ethic,” Sayah said. “She doesn’t miss practices at all -- which is really special because we practice so early in the morning.
“She came back this year really focused and prepared,” Sayah added. “She has already made one District cut in the 100 freestyle. And she’s preparing herself to get qualified for the 50 freestyle. She’s really, really close. She’s got a great attitude. She has come back really strong.”
According to Epley, her coaches and teammates welcomed her back with open arms.
“George is amazing and he’s super great with injuries,” Epley said. “And the team was super supportive and nice to me. They’re super inclusive and we’re all close, and it’s nice to be a part of that.
“The other District time I’m going after is in the 50 free,” she said. “I’m close to it, and I really want to get it.”  

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