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Midvale Journal

Hillcrest High new swim coach expects improvement, sportsmanship with commitment

Nov 01, 2022 08:08PM ● By Julie Slama

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

Hillcrest High new swim coach Elizabeth Drake knows many of her swimmers have academic responsibilities as International Baccalaureate and Advanced Placement students. She also knows her team has other obligations and activities, and busing to Gene Fullmer Recreation Center in West Jordan takes additional time, but she does expect them to communicate and make the commitment to the team.

“Our team goal is that I want to leave every meet with the other team feeling, if nothing else, we have the most sportsmanship,” she said, such as wanting swimmers cheering at the end of every lane. “Whether it’s our team or not, every swimmer in the pool should feel supported 100%. Some years, Hillcrest may not have felt there was much cheering as they weren’t winning as many races or didn’t have as great turnout as far as their crowd. I want to turn that around. It starts with our dedication to our team and working hard. Then, as a team, we will show that it doesn’t matter who you are, if you’ve got your parents there, or if you’re going to win the race or be two or three minutes behind in the 500 (freestyle), you deserve to be cheered for as much as anyone else because you’re working hard, and that’s what counts.”

Drake knows something about swimming and commitment. She was at practices herself, first swimming for the USA-sanctioned Clearfield City Aquatic Team, then swam at state for nearby Fremont High School.  

“My grandparents met as lifeguards and then they were on the swim team together. My great uncle went to Olympic trials, so it’s kind of my family generation. My mom got us into some lessons and noticed that we were good little swimmers and so my older sister and I swam together in club and high school,” she said.

After graduating in 2017, Drake swam recreationally in college as Utah State University only had a club program. She majored in exercise science and is a first-year Hillcrest High math teacher.

“Coaching was always on my radar,” she said. “I’ve always known that I would enjoy teaching, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to pursue it. After I graduated college, I started substitute teaching first and once I decided I really liked being at the high school level, I finished my associate educator license. As soon as I got here, I asked, ‘What could be my involvement with the swim team?’”

Timing worked out well for her as the previous head coach left the program, so Drake stepped into the role. Assistant coach Tom Huddlestone stayed on to help with the transition.

“Coach Stone is a well experienced assistant coach, which is super awesome. He taught me a lot with the logistical things I didn’t know about so he’s a huge help to me, and the kids love him,” she said. “My exercise science degree helps me know which muscle components I want to target and how to add different things to their work out safely. Off season, we did a lot of conditioning and in the pool, incorporated a lot of the swimming technique and stroke mechanics.”

Drake also can rely upon her background as a swimmer.

“My high school coach was going to school for human performance management, and he would share with us what we would do and why. If we were fixing something, he would share with us why and help us work on our skills and our strengthening. It gave me a great foundation,” she said.

Drake anticipates leadership from her captain, junior Evie Pendleton, on the girls’ team with strong support from sophomores Maddie Peterson, Lucy McDonough and Olivia Hermanson.

For the boys, Drake is hoping senior Luke Parker will qualify for state in 500 freestyle and appreciates continued strong dedication from senior Swayam Skapal. Both swimmers are captains. She also expects support from the Powers brothers—senior Ray and sophomore Thomas.

In addition to conditioning, the team had several weeks of clinics before tryouts, with a solid core of 25 swimmers opting in. With the season starting this winter, she expected another dozen swimmers to be on the team.

“It’s more of a dedication and an attitude thing that I’m looking for,” Drake said. “If you’re there every day or you came to clinics whenever you could, or you’re communicating with me frequently, those are things I’m looking for because I know you want to improve and are adding to our team climate.”