SEQUIM — Sarah Thorson made an impact in both the pool and on the basketball court at Sequim High.
Now the Sequim High grad and former prep sports star is looking to do the same as the new head coach of Sequim’s girls swimming squad.
“I didn’t think [the coaching job] would come so quick but it was always kind of in the picture,” said Thorson. “Swimming is a passion of mine, and it’s nice to give back to the same school I went to.”
After earning a psychology degree and spending four-and-a-half years in the U.S. Army, Thorson moved back to the Sequim area where she helped lead a youth club team at the Sequim YMCA from April 2017 to July 2019.
It’s a bit of coming “full circle” in a number of ways for Thorson, who as a teen was among the last group of swimmers to compete with the Olympic Peninsula Aquatics swim team. A contract dispute between the team and the Sequim Aquatics and Recreation Center (the facility now operated by the YMCA of Clallam County) saw Sequim’s lone club swim team dissolve.
Thorson said she wanted to help bring back a youth swim team to the area, and got the chance with the YMCA the last couple of years.
“It’s such a great sport for kids,” said Thorson, who led a team of 6 to 10 and 11 to 17-year-olds.
“[Coaching] was a lot of fun; I loved it.”
Now she’ll help lead a Sequim Wolves team that last year finished 11th at the state 2A finals and produced four individual and two relay state meet berths.
Thorson said she’s worked with a number of the high school athletes on her YMCA team, which will help get her acclimated to the high school program. She was able to work with more than a dozen of them in July for some practices as allowed by state prep rules.
“It’s nice to not come in 100 percent brand new,” she said.
“We’ll know more next week (but) just from what I’ve seen, they have great attitudes and are ready to work hard.”
Aquatic, hardcourt success
Thorson saw her own high school swim career — and hopes of swimming in college — end abruptly, thanks to a shoulder injury.
Mentored early on in her teen years by Olympic Peninsula Aquatics coach Dan Clark, Thorson (nee Moores) was part of a number of other top club swimmers to help fuel Sequim High’s string of strong state meet finishes.
As a freshman in 2004, she teamed with helped the Wolves place sixth at the state 3A meet. She, former high school All-American Summer Jackson and stalwarts Staci Stratton and Justine Textor placed second in the 200 medley relay finals, while she, Jackson, Textor and Kori Winnop raced to a seventh place finish in the 200 free relay. At the same meet Thorson placed 10th in the 100 free.
As a sophomore in 2005, Thorson placed sixth in the 50 free and seventh in 100 free at state 3A meet, helping the Wolves place 16th overall.
In 2006, after getting reclassified as a 2A school, Sequim won the West Central District title and placed third at state overall, the program’s best team finish. There, Thorson earned her best individual state finish (third in the 50 free) and — with Stratton, Textor, Rebekah Harasick and Mackenzie Marmol — earned two top-three relay finishes (200 medley, 200 free).
But Thorson suffered a significant shoulder injury that same year and had surgery the following spring. She tried to swim her senior season in 2007 but couldn’t make it work.
“It as a dream to swim in college,” Thorson said.
Instead Thorson focused on basketball, helping lead the Wolves’ hoops team to back-to-back playoff berths — including a state playoff appearance in 2006-2007. She also coached youth fifth/sixth grade girls’ basketball team for three years.
After graduating Sequim High in 2008 Thorson went on to play basketball for two seasons at Simpson University in Redding, Calif., where — utilizing a full U.S. Army ROTC scholarship — she earned a degree in psychology. The day she graduated Thorson started a four-and-a-half year stint in the Army as an engineering officer before transferring to the reserves in September of 2016.
She went back to school to earn a master’s degree in school counseling, and — coming full circle once again — she was hired as a counselor at Sequim High School last April.
She married Taylor Thorson, a former Sequim High hoops player who now teaches at Sequim Middle School.
Focus on 2019
Last year under Bob Pease, his only season as head coach, Sequim’s Wolves went 4-2-1 in the Olympic League (tied for third) and placed 11th at state 2A finals. The team saw two relays qualify for state while two individuals — freshman Mia Coffman and junior Sonja Govertsen — qualify for two races each, for a total of six state entries.
Coffman finished in the top five in both of her events (200 free, 500 free).
Thorson, just the fifth coach in the Sequim program’s history, sees a number of top swimmers eligible to return in 2019, losing just three seniors to graduation.
Thorson says as a coach she wants to see her swimmers use refined strokes — “I’m very technique driven,” she says — and that she is using a holistic training method, leading some dry-land practices during the summer and on weekends during the season to build endurance.
Lending a helping hand, Thorson says, will be long-time former SHS assistant Chuck Lamb along with newcomer assistant Cherise Seser.