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Article on DCST Swimmer and Coach Emily Waller

Moving to the sound: Waller’s pre-race music kept her concentration level high

By JAMES NOKES - sports@daily-chronicle.com

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DeKALB – The synthesizers usher in a pulsating electronic beat. And Emily Waller’s earphones usher in a wall of sound that builds into a frenzied pace before suddenly stopping and building back up again.

The pre-swim techno music gets the DeKalb senior ready for each heat. This year it was “Sandstormý by Darude that played over and over.

There are no lyrics in the song, just the driving and determined beat that furiously rampages through the song like a runaway train.

Waller went to the IHSA State Meet in the 50- and 100-yard freestyle after taking first place in both events at the St. Charles North Sectional on Nov. 15.

Along the way, “Sandstormý and its fast and furious beat drove Waller to new heights, earning honors as the Daily Chronicle’s 2008 girls swimmer of the year.

“Techno music just accidentally found its way onto my iPod too,ý Waller said. “But it just grew on me and I always listen to it before a race.ý

At the state meet in Evanston, where several heats were delayed because of faulty touch pads and the scoring system, Waller sat patiently listening to techno and staying focused on her next swim.

After the meet she overheard several swimmers complaining about being thrown off by the technical difficulties. Even though she didn’t make her goal of a top-three finish, Waller finished ninth in the 100-yard freestyle, and says she was satisfied that she swam near her personal best times and didn’t let the various delays effect her performance.

“Given the circumstances, I was able to swim consistent every time,ý Waller said. “I just focused and didn’t think about it too much because then I would have messed up.ý

Waller has swum with DeKalb coach Marybeth McGill’s daughter, Kate Taylor, since grade school. The DeKalb coach knew the effort she would get in the pool from Waller, but the most impressive growth spurt McGill saw was Waller’s change in mental maturation through her prep career.

Waller grew into a fierce competitor, and when she heads to Bowling Green to swim on a full scholarship next fall, the Falcons will get a versatile swimmer capable of competing in any event.

“I knew as a freshman she was very talented,ý McGill said. “What I was thrilled with was watching her grow the last four years. She became more focused and determined.

“At Bowling Green Emily has unlimited potential. They will be happy to have a swimmer that can swim in any event with a chance to win.ý

Waller said the highlight of her career didn’t come this season, but was a swim off to get into a Saturday heat at the 2007 State Meet. It was the first time she ever was involved in a one-on-one showdown, and it was a defining moment.

“I’ve got a competitive mindset and hate to lose,ý Waller said. “Losing is my least favorite thing. I looked over at my opponent and just knew I wouldn’t lose. From there I think my confidence just grew.ý

Waller’s four seasons with the Barbs were just like the beat in “Sandstorm;ý always rising.