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The City Journals

Swim Team Dives Deep in Pool, Classroom

Jul 13, 2016 10:45AM ● By Bryan Scott

Highland High swim team performs their team cheer before a swim meet against East and Kearns High Schools. —Cindy Nordstrom

By Travis Barton | [email protected]

Student-athlete is a term applied to students who also participate in school athletics. For the Highland High swim team, it means a little bit more.

The Rams not only finished second at state this year in both boys and girls, the team also had six members, three from the boys and girls, make the academic all-state team.

“For us to get six out of the swimming world, that’s still a big deal,” Edge said.

All six swimmers were seniors. From the boys team were Erik Newland, Nick Pryor and Andy Silver while the girls team had Emma Ker, Eva Gontrum and Zoe Phillips.

Edge, in her second year coaching and teaching at Highland, said both in and out of the pool, the kids exceeded her preseason hopes.

“They went beyond my expectations, especially the boys. They’d never placed at state before so when they got second that was a big deal with only nine kids qualified,” Edge said.

In order to be a successful swimmer, it requires commitment and Edge said it’s possible that can correlate to the classroom.

“[The students] are very driven, with swimming it’s very much commitment and I think from that they learn how to drive and push themselves to do well in school,” Edge said.

A state record holder from her swimming days at Kearns, Edge said swimming had a big effect on her studies.

“I was not a good student until I started swimming on a swim team and all of a sudden my studies totally changed because my outlook became ‘I can do my best, I can do better than this,’” Edge said.

Four of the six swimmers were still going to work out before and after school shortly before graduation.

“They are very committed to the sport,” Edge said.

Gontrum and Phillips, who are twins, saw their names near the top of every event they participated in at the state meet. The pair were taking multiple IB tests during the closing weeks of the school year.

“They are fantastic in the water…And I feel like they are a lot more mature than I was as a senior,” Edge said. “They’re responsible and pay attention to detail.”

Silver and Pryor proved themselves, Edge said, to be worthy leaders on the team with Silver knowing how to help his teammates while Pryor exemplified how to work hard. Newland also plays the saxophone in addition to his swimming ability.

The students’ commitment to the classroom has had an effect on other swimmers on the team.

“We’ll have weaker students join the swim team but once they’ve been on the team for a year, their grades start to go up so there’s this environment,” Edge said. “If you’re surrounding yourself with people who are doing well in school, you tend to try and step up.”  

Whether it’s a team or individual motivation, Edge doesn’t know, but regardless of how swimming tends to have a positive impact on students’ studies.

Edge said the students will leave behind an important academic legacy.

“I think that was more valuable than trying to win state, the academic side, because it shows that you can put in 25 hours of practice a week and still do well in school, it all depends on your priorities,” Edge said. “I think it’s awesome for the kids to try and measure up to that.”

What else is valuable is the lessons the kids can take with them now that high school is over. Edge said there were three she hoped they can remember.

“The first thing they learn is how to do hard things, life isn’t easy and especially in swimming you can’t get faster by taking the easy route,” Edge said.

The second lesson, Edge said, was to learn how to have fun while doing hard things.

“The swimmers who find joy in working hard swim faster,” Edge said.

For the hardest and last lesson, Edge said it’s important for kids to learn how to help others have fun while working hard.

“Usually it’s contagious if you can help other people gain optimism and joy in life and I think life tends to treat you better that way,” Edge said.