Girls Varsity Swimming
KENTWOOD -- The best way for an athlete to get over a slow start is to have a fast finish.
This is the direction Samantha Sutherlin appears headed for coach Monika Steffens and her East Kentwood girls swimming and diving team.
Sutherlin is a senior in her fourth varsity season.
"Sammie had a bit of a slow start this season, but has taken off in the past few weeks with her racing," Steffens said. "(Earlier this week), she hit her first individual (Michigan Interscholastic Swim Coaches Association) cut as a swimmer and we're looking forward to some fast races out of her in the next few weeks.
"Though she's still a few seconds off of her best times in one or two events, she's right where she needs to be in her training to have a strong second half of the season."
Sutherlin has been focusing on the backstroke the past two years. Her top times this season have been 1:05.49 in the 100 backstroke and 2:31.91 in the 200 individual medley with a lifetime best of 2:27.34.
"I think a big reason she's begun to take off this year is due to her drive," Steffens said. "She's one of the first girls in the pool every day for practice and she fights for every yard.
"She has become a wonderful leader for the more developmental athletes to look toward for guidance. We've been pairing her with one of our freshman backstrokers in practice, and listening to her pass on her hard-earned wisdom throughout practices and meets is a heartwarming experience for coaches."
Sutherlin has dropped about three-tenths of a second in her 100 backstroke from what she did rested and suited up at conferences last year.
"Given that we're in the middle of the season, training hard every day, and not at all rested, we have high hopes to see even more time drops throughout the coming weeks," Steffens said.
"Besides her time improvements, Sammie has done a great job of acting as one of the leaders to our growing team, and I think part of that comes from her experience as a coach on our age-group swim club."
Though Sammie can often be a bit more reserved through practices, she grinds hard every day and leads through her actions.
"Sammie's been around pools her entire life, and she shows her love for the water every day in practice," Steffens said. "Something I will remember for a long time is, truthfully, watching her play in the pool throughout practice.
"Sammie is quite unique in the sense that if she has a free moment, she'll be doing summersaults below the surface, going underwater to make faces at the other swimmers, doing silly jumps when she gets back into the pool. Her enthusiasm towards the water is refreshing to see out of a higher-level swimmer."
East Kentwood has a 2-5 win-loss record
"The senior class we have this year is filled with top-notch athletes, and it will be hard to fill their shoes," Steffens said. "Still, we are a growing program with big goals ahead of us. These girls are resilient, extraordinary individuals and have paved a way for the next generation of athletes to be successful in our sport."