Lam leads Sehome girls' swimming into new year

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDSeptember 19, 2013 

Shirley Lam individually scored 19 points for the Mariners during the Class 2A State Swimming and Diving Championships last year. Her seventh-place finish in the 100 backstroke and 10th-place time in the 200 IM was the difference between Sehome placing fourth and seventh.

Lam helped Sehome bring home a state trophy, but her team influence stretches beyond fast times in the pool.

"She is a solid state-level swimmer," said Mariners coach Don Helling of his senior captain. "She has been since she started here. I think more than that she is a boost for the team, team spirit, and she is really good at helping out new swimmers and swimmers that are struggling. She just has a real bubbly personality, and she is a good senior."

When Lam isn't posting top times, she's encouraging others to push for them.

Swimming for Sehome under Helling has always been an honor, Lam said, so when she was selected team captain, it was an unimaginable feeling.

"To have the girls vote me and Nina (Djukvic) as captains, we felt so honored to have that role," Lam said in a phone interview. "We really want to live up to those expectations Don has for us and we have for ourselves. I really want to make sure this year the girls are more than a team. We want to be a family and have the younger girls look up to us as role models."

Leading a perennial state title contender can be a daunting task, but odds are there aren't many other teammates a Sehome swimmer would want by their side than Lam during both the grind of the season and postseason push.

And Lam has a proven track record of state-level swimming success.

She's swum at state's King County Aquatic Center every year since she was a freshman, and last year she swam a full slate, swimming in the Mariners' eighth-place 200 medley relay and sixth-place 400 free relay as well as the 100 backstroke and 200 IM.

"It takes a lot of commitment," said Lam of being a state swimmer. "You have to have a certain mentality. You have to set goals for yourself, not only swimming but academic goals. We're a high school swim team, so we go to weight training three times a week and practice every day after five or six hours at school. We get in the pool and feel replenished and so excited to see each other."

Besides junior defending Class 2A 200 freestyle champion Gwendolyn Roley, the Mariners don't have the top-end talent they usually do, but Helling said his team is extremely deep. Lam should score state points, and Ellie Poehlman, Hannah Holmgren and Megan Mundell will be key. Djukvic is an important senior, Leah Day was a 2012 state swimmer, Zoey Shackel is expected to compete well in diving, McKenna Sakamoto and Sophie Grambo are two Helling is excited about and the list goes on.

"Depth is as strong as we have ever been," said Helling of this year's group. "We're always a depth team and a relay team, and I think that will be our strength again this year. It will just be a matter of if we can bring them up to the traditional Sehome state level."

Lam's team-first attitude is the type capable of extracting the most potential from a team. While she and Djukvic will be relied on to lead Sehome, she's out to cap a strong career with top-eight placings in her main events.

"I definitely feel a lot stronger in the water, and I feel like I know what my weaknesses are, and I know where I can start off," Lam said. "I trained during the offseason with my other swim team, and I know what I need to work on. I think going into state I want to place top eight in the 100 backstroke and just be a good role model for the girls on our swim team. I want to make sure the girls have a leader to look up to and want to swim again next year."

Reach Andrew Lang at andrew.lang@bellinghamherald.com or call 360-756-2862.

Reach ANDREW LANG at andrew.lang@bellinghamherald.com or call ext. 862.

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