The timing felt right for Sarah Byers to finally do this — to finally hand over the keys of her booming club swim program to her assistant coach and accept a high school head coaching gig.
And the position just so happens to be one she’s eyed for years.
Byers, a former Division I swimmer at Miami University (OH), was named the head coach of Verrado High School’s swim and dive program in the spring. Now a week before the first meet, Byers believes her coaching pedigree and the roster she assumed is enough to top last year’s storied season.
“We have been working a lot on team goals so far and our team goals for the year are to have team spirit, have team unity and be undefeated,” she said.
Six years ago, Byers introduced Vitras Swim Club, a club team based in Verrado. She oversaw the program for six years, establishing herself as a legit high school head coaching candidate along the way.
She learned of Verrado’s coaching vacancy in the spring. Multiple community members and parents of high school swimmers had implored her to apply in the past, but her commitment to Vitras always hindered her from doing so.
“This was the first year I was able to give the position serious thought because I have the time to give the team this year.
“I knew the team needed strong leadership as well as someone to unify the team and create a sense of spirit and belonging and that is something I enjoy doing.”
Byers’ reasoning behind accepting this job stems from the fond memories of her swim career. It began at 10 years old and ended with a four-year collegiate career at Miami University. She was named team captain of the RedHawks her senior campaign.
A bonus for Byers is the opportunity to stroll into a program like Verrado’s, which has been arguably the school’s most successful program since the school’s inception more than a decade ago. A state tournament appearance for the Vipers is customary, while college commitments have been a common occurrence.
At last year’s state tournament, the girls’ 200-yard freestyle relay team turned in a first-place finish. Junior Jadan Nabor came in first in both the 200-yard individual medley and 100-yard backstroke.
And there was senior Grant Greenbaum, too, who won the 100-yard breaststroke.
“The team goals align a lot with my goals but I am coming into this program hoping to make the Verrado High School swim team a positive experience for all those on the team and challenge the athletes to grow personally and athletically during their time in high school.”
Plenty of eyes will be on Nabor this fall, an Auburn commit entering his senior year after a dazzling junior campaign. Along with the clinic he routinely put on last year, he was also named to the National Select Camp at the USA National Olympic Training Center in Colorado.
The senior leadership he’s demonstrated already is encouraging, Byers said. It’s the kind of senior influence needed to get back to the state tournament weekend.
“One thing he really brings to the team is an excellent work and practice ethic. He does all the ‘little things’ in the pool correctly,” she said. “And he does them consistently well. This is obviously a result of hard work in practice and a commitment to be excellent and other swimmers on the team watching him can learn by his example.”
Verrado opened its season with informal workouts in the beginning of August, its September 5 season opener quickly approaching.
Byers joining Verrado’s swim program is as win-win as it gets, a marriage that will undoubtedly benefit both parties.
The road to the state tournament weekend begins now, with Byers finally guiding the program she’s been eyeing for years.