Members of Evergreen’s swim and dive team know they are in it together.
The 32 swimmers and five divers won the 3A state championship for the fifth year in a row last month, continuing to show their dominance in the sport, and they want to continue that winning tradition. Of the entire team, 12 swimmers and three divers competed, and their combined total 422 points handily defeated second-place Discovery Canyon with 333 points.
Four swimmers and a diver the Canyon Courier interviewed said everyone — coaches, swimmers and divers — is all about being a team. When they talk about their time swimming and diving for Evergreen, they don’t talk about their times or their records; they talk about their team family.
When you’re on a high school team, they said, you’re swimming for your school and for your team, not for yourself.
“At meets, we’re united,” senior Alyssa Cook said. “We want to help the team.”
Most of the swimmers started in the sport at a young age, and they say they quickly learned that swimming was an all-consuming sport with no room for additional sports.
For diver Julia Swanke, diving was an extension of the gymnastics she had done most of her life.
While practices can be difficult, they continue because of the relationships they build among fellow athletes and with their coaches.
“It’s a very uplifting community,” said freshman Tally Riddle. “They’re fun to be around.”
The Cougars said that building team camaraderie starts with the seniors who are welcoming and encouraging to the younger athletes.
“When I was a freshman, they were super nice and welcoming," junior Finley Anderson said. "That is brought down to the younger swimmers. The seniors try hard to include us.”
Senior Lisca De Jager said time trials were nerve-wracking for new swimmers, but the upperclassmen are encouraging.
Advice to other swimmers, divers
The athletes suggest that teammates should cherish the little moments.
“I think back to when I was little,” Anderson said. “I wanted to be in high school, and that time flies by. It gets pretty crazy in high school. It’s such an amazing experience and something I will never forget.”
Riddle suggested that swimmers put in the work, knowing there would be bad and good days.
“They will continue to grow, and it will work out in the end,” she said.
Swanke encouraged high school students to try something new like she did when she went out for the dive team.
De Jager called swimming a sport for people of all abilities, no matter whether they are fast and break records or swim for exercise.
Cook suggested that students try swimming, because it's a good sport both physically and mentally.
“I get a lot out of it, and my bests memories are of the team," she said.
While the Cougar athletes talked about family, their coaches talked about their talent and putting the team first.
First-year head coach Steve Schneiter said he knew of Evergreen’s legacy when he took the coaching job, and he knew there were strong swimmers. What he didn’t know was just how strong they are.
“The secret to their success is that success builds on success," added Liz Hudd, who was the Cougars' swim coach for 21 years before retiring in 2021. "We have a culture of belonging. The team is not just for the elite swimmers. We have swimmers at all levels, and they all feel welcome and supported and part of the team.”
Schneiter agreed, noting that building a welcoming team culture was a priority.
Hudd and last year’s head coach Lisa Morrow attended the state meet to support the team.
Morrow attributed the team’s success to the swimmers’ work ethic and their understanding of what it takes to be champions.
“We build on character, confidence and camaraderie,” she said. “The seniors are great leaders, and the team is all about encouraging each other to do their best.”
An outstanding future
The Cougar athletes and coaches foresee more strong seasons and maybe even more state championships in their future, saying the legacy has been built by their predecessors. Since many high school swimmers swim for the Evergreen Hurricanes club team, they see some of the middle school swimmers who will join them in the next few years.
“It will be an adjustment when the seniors go to college, but we will welcome new swimmers to the team," Riddle said.