Emma Chard has a routine that has worked for years.
When the senior at Foss High School gets ready to swim, she first paces around to get the blood flowing. Up on the blocks, she adjusts her goggles and then pulls her cap down to a specific point on her forehead.
That is when she is fully ready.
“When I hit the water,” she said, “the nerves go away.”
Enough so that Chard has gone to the Class 3A state meet the past three years. Last season, she placed second to Bellevue High phenom Kim Williams in the 100-yard breaststroke (1 minute, 3.49 seconds to 1:05.68), and was third in the 100 freestyle to champion Anna Keane, from Mead High (50.60 to 52.14).
Chard is back this season, and better than ever. In two meets this fall, the senior has already posted automatic state-qualifying marks in six individual events – the 50 free, 100 free, 200 free, 500 free, 200 individual medley and 100 breaststroke.
She is not finished yet. Chard intends to qualify in every event.
“And she really doesn’t let anything get in her way,” Foss coach Matt Wood said.
Wood said he recently saw a photo of Chard at a meet when she was about 10.
“She was behind the blocks and she had the exact same look as she does now,” he said. “It was funny to see it’s something she was doing then, too.
“She’s kind of a pit bull when it comes to getting focused.”
Unlike many of her peers, Chard didn’t fully immerse herself into the sport until high school. She started out on a YMCA team at age 7. It wasn’t until after her first trip to the state meet as a ninth-grader that she joined the Tacoma Swim Club.
“But I don’t think I am at a disadvantage,” he said. “I’m still improving, and I’m not at my greatest yet.”
Wood agreed. He has been with the Falcons as long as Chard.
“She was a good swimmer when she came in, but she was really raw,” Wood said. “A lot of times, when kids start when they’re really little, they start to plateau at a younger age. But she hasn’t hit her peak yet.”
That may come at the next level. Among the colleges recruiting her are Boise State, Utah and the University of Denver.
Attention from colleges was something Chard scarcely imagined was possible.
“It wasn’t (until) my sophomore year, when I started to improve a lot more and become faster, that I realized I could go farther with it.”
Chard, who said her ultimate goal is to swim in the Olympics, had the opportunity to compete with some of the best swimmers in the country at U.S. Junior Nationals in August.
“That was a really fun experience,” she said. “It definitely prepared me for bigger meets to come.”
Chard, who hovers around a 4.0 grade-point average and takes International Baccalaureate classes at Foss, said she plans to major in science and potentially become a physical therapist for athletes.
But first, there’s the matter of her senior season.
“I’m really excited for this year,” she said. “I hope to at least get second place (at state) and I dream that maybe I’ll even win it.”
“So I’ll work and do it.”
PREP GIRLS SWIMMING PRIMER
If one team has the depth (50 girls on the team) and star power (four-time top-three state finisher Megan Kawaguchi) to chase down Class 4A state favorite Newport of Bellevue, it is three-time West Central District winner Mount Rainier. Seven performers off last year’s state-meet squad return this season. Kawaguchi is still in search of her first state title in the 100-yard backstroke and 200 Individual Medley.
SPSL Central – Curtis. SPSL North – Mount Rainier. SPSL South – Puyallup. Narrows 4A – Gig Harbor. SPSL 3A - Peninsula. Narrows 3A – North Thurston. SPSL 2A - Sumner.
ONE TO WATCH
Gig Harbor’s Carolyn McCann is in for a big year. Last year’s runaway Class 4A state champion in the 100 breaststroke (1 minute, 3.30 seconds) is stronger and faster as a senior. Tides coach Mike Kelly thinks not only does she have a chance to break the all-time best mark of 1:02.00, set by Peninsula’s Lindsay Marchand in 2008, but she also could become just the third high school girl nationally ever to break the 1-minute mark.
OTHERS TO WATCH
SPSL 4A: Hannah Holly, Curtis, sr. (50 free, 100 free); Natalie Lesnick, Kentwood, sr. (200 free, 500 free); Kyndal Phillips, Kentlake, sr. (200 IM); Alana Pries, Emerald Ridge, jr. (50 free, 100 free); Kenna Ramey, Federal Way, sr. (50 free, 100 butterfly).
Narrows 4A: Ursula Andren, Gig Harbor, fr. (100 breaststroke, 200 IM); Sarah Avery, Central Kitsap, sr. (50 free, 100 breaststroke); Anna Furrer, Gig Harbor, fr. (200 free, 500 free); Sarah Norman, Olympia, jr. (100 butterfly, 200 IM).
SPSL 3A: Whitney Mundle, Peninsula, so. (100 breaststroke); Madison Ryan, Peninsula, sr. (100 backstroke); Lanie Vuong, Decatur, sr. (100 butterfly, 200 IM)
Narrows 3A: Emma Chard, Foss, sr. (100 free, 100 breaststroke); Arielle Howell, North Thurston, so.; Sarah Sachs, Foss, sr. (100 backstroke)
Others: Madison Munger, Sumner, sr. (100 butterfly, 200 IM); Jada Pearson, Capital, so. (200 free); Meredith Sawer, Fife, jr. (100 breaststroke, 200 IM).