WAVE of success hits local, national pools

Jim Verdier and his WAVE Aquatics swimmers are on the fast track to success.

Jim Verdier and his WAVE Aquatics swimmers are on the fast track to success.

Two-and-a-half years ago, the head coach moved here from Illinois to take the WAVE job — and he inherited some of the quickest athletes in the program’s history.

“WAVE is a lot better than my team in Illinois. I’ve got a lot more fast kids. And there’s a great group of committed parents,” said Verdier, who swam the individual medley and butterfly at Whitworth College in Spokane.

Inglemoor High senior stars Megan Caylor and Jayme Swalin are two of the top WAVE swimmers on tap, and they’ll be taking their talents to college at Rutgers University and University of Pacific, respectively, next year.

Currently, Caylor holds the club 200-meter backstroke record (2 minutes, 18.1 seconds), and Swalin leads the way in the 200-yard individual medley (2 minutes, 7 seconds) and 400-yard individual medley (4 minutes, 25 seconds).

Swalin finished 21st in the nation in the 500-yard freestyle at the recent Junior Nationals in Orlando, Fla. Juanita High sophomore Emily Kaufman competed in the individual medley, freestyle and breaststroke races at the event, as well.

“The girls that went to juniors were fun-loving and they like to have a good time,” Verdier said. “But when they get up on the blocks, they’re intense and focused.

“I love the big meets — it’s fun to go out and get that payback.”

Swalin said the long hours in the pool with both Inglemoor and WAVE have made her a better swimmer — and a stronger person. She helped lead the Vikings to their fourth straight 4A state title in the fall.

“I think the fun — even though you’re still training hard — is why I’ve kept with the sport for so long,” she said. “It’s rewarding. There’s dedication, hard work and time management, for sure.

“(The best part) is probably the dedication, to push through the hard times,” she added. “Not every day is a good day. You just push through and look toward the goal.”

Other top WAVE high-school swimmers include seniors Will Houser (Redmond), Eric Patterson (Inglemoor) and Lia Santini (Bothell). Lan Fen Kaplan and Ira Kaplan are disability swimmers who regularly qualify for national events; Ira holds many Junior National records and is world-ranked in the 50- and 100-meter butterflies.

WAVE Aquatics, a nonprofit club that formed in 1987, holds practices and events at Northshore, Juanita and Redmond pools. Athletes ages 6 through 50-plus swim with the club, which begins its competitive season April 14 and runs through the end of July.

Recently, Olympic gold medalists Josh Davis and Ben Wildman-Tobriner participated in the club’s Breakout! clinic and gave the swimmers an extra boost of confidence heading into the season.

Verdier said the focus of WAVE is to get folks interested in swimming, have fun and prepare the high-school athletes for college competition.

“I’ve been coaching for 25 years and I love it,” he said. “I like watching the kids train and watching them grow up and go into the ‘real world,’ so to speak.”

For information, visit www.waveaquatics.org.