Coaches & Directors

We are here to support your needs. If your questions are related to workouts, meets, events, goal setting, and other swimming related needs, please contact one of the coaches. 

Coaching Staff

Matt Finnigan

Head Coach / Jr & Sr Swami


Head Coach and Co-Founder of Race Swami Matt Finnigan grew up in the swimming hotbed of Northern California's Bay Area. Swimming competitively for more than 16 years for clubs straddling the Bay Area's peninsula, Matt's most notable tutelage in the sport came under the direction of the late Kevin Perry, whom he competed for for six years at the Los Altos Aquatic Club. "Swimming for Kevin Perry, I learned more than just about swimming," Finnigan recalls. "I learned about life. 'KP' had a way of drawing every ounce of talent out of every one of his athletes, all the while teaching them lessons about hard work, dedication, effective communication, learning to work together... and striving for excellence no matter who you were or what you were going to do with your life... I think I learned more from KP than I ever learned from any of my high school teachers. That's just who he was. He wasn't just a swim coach... he was a life teacher."  Under the guidance of Perry, Matt was named an All-American as a flyer and distance freestyler. He continued his swimming career at Florida State University. As a coach, Finnigan has been named UHSAA Coach of the Year four times, a Western Region Coach of the Year once, and led Judge Memorial Catholic High School Girls' teams to seven state titles over nine years (two 2nd place finishes). Many of Matt's graduates continued their respective swimming careers at college programs from coast to coast. He has coached several All-Americans and graduated nearly 200 athletes during his tenure at Judge Memorial. Matt is an ASCA Level III coach, is Race Club (Florida) certified, and currently serves as Utah Swimming's Diversity Coordinator as well as Executive Director at Race Swami.

David Valdes

Head Age Group Coach / Rising Swami


David Valdes, Swami Head Age Group Coach, comes to RACE SWAMI by way of Alaska, which is where he got his first opportunity to coach a year-round swim team (Aurora Swim Team) in 2010. David's competitive swimming career, however, began at the age of six in Mexico City, Mexico. By age ten he was representing Mexico at the Central American and Caribbean Championships and traveling between Mexico and Florida to further his swimming endeavors. David completed high school in the U.S. and was fortunate enough to swim for Harvard University under coach Mike Chasson who also coached Race Swami's Head Coach, Matt Finnigan when he was an age group swimmer. David has fond memories of the many teams he competed for and the friendships he made as a swimmer—and its what eventually fueled his interest in becoming a coach. David views swimming as the fountain of youth and now that he competes in triathlons, running races and cycling events, he still uses swimming as a way to build up endurance while allowing the body to recover from hard running sessions and mountain biking training. Most of David's coaching experience is with 12 & under swimmers and it is his hope to instill in our Rising Swamis a lifelong interest in being fit, staying active as well as possessing a passion for swimming. David is an ASCA Level II coach.

Theresa Dominguez

Rising Swami I & Neighborhood House


Theresa Dominguez  grew up in Colorado Springs, Colorado and has always loved being around the water. Swimming for Colorado Springs Swim Team (CSST ), and later, the Colorado Rapids, Theresa soon found that she was a pretty darn fast breaststroker  and soon began making state cuts year after year. She swam competitively for over 7 years and learned a lot about determination and perseverance. Theresa is a natural around young kids new to the water, immediately putting them at ease as they find comfort and trust in the pool. Currently, Theresa is studying to be Special Education Teacher at Westminster College in Salt Lake City. Theresa oversees our Neighborhood House groups, as well as teaming up with Coach Debbie to direct the Rising Swami 1 group at Northwest Rec Center. She also is Swami's Program Director with our partnership with the Neighborhood House.

Cathy Philpot

Rising Swami II & Junior Swami


Cole Brendel

Rising Swami II


Debbie Samaniego

Rising Swami I


Debbie Samaniego grew up in Pomona, California in a diverse community. In middle school, her family moved to Logan, Utah. During her freshman year at Logan High School, Debbie met Jerry Hodgkinson, the Logan swimming coach at the time, in a geography class he was teaching. Debbie witnessed first hand the closeness that swimmers shared every time they gathered in his classroom throughout the day. She was so intrigued by it that she found herself wanting to be part of that community-fueled friendship. So she decided to join the team! One problem: she barely knew how to stay afloat! But Coach Jerry took Debbie under his wing and taught her the fundamentals of sound, efficient swimming. Over the course of her high school swimming career, she worked her way up the ranks and made the most out of the opportunity Coach Jerry presented her. With much hard work, dedication, and lots of team support, she continued to improve her craft and became a state swimmer for Logan High. Now being around the water is her part of her life as she continues her education at Westminster College. According to Debbie, it was through swimming that she was able to become a lifeguard, teach swim lessons, culminating in becoming a USA Swimming coach at Race Swami. At Westminster College, Debbie is studying Political Science, Spanish, and Latin American Studies. Debbie mentors the Rising Swami 1 groups at both Steiner West and Northwest Rec.

Chelsea Peterson

Age Group Coach / Rising Swami II


Chelsea Peterson assists the Junior Swami and Rising Swami groups after spending a decorated career at the University of Utah. Chelsea studied Sports Psychology at the U and graduated in Spring 2012. Originally hailing from Omaha, Nebraska, Chelsea swam for Swim Omaha under the presence of renowned coach Docker Hartfield. She swam competitively for 13 years and has learned a ton about success stories in this sport. Though known to be tough and ornery when it comes to keeping the kids on task, Chelsea is known to reward her group handsomely when they collectively reach their goals in impressive fashion. When Chelsea's not on deck teaching life's lessons and the art of a great breaststroke, you might find her out hiking the trails of the Wasatch, or playing a mean game of frisbee. Chelsea's the daughter of David L. Peterson and Crystal L. Peterson, who still reside in Omaha. The former is a huge Swami fan who makes it out regularly for the big meets and cheers mercilessly for Chelsea's budding young stars.