Sarah Winters, a former M-A High School swimmer and now a member of the University of California, Davis Division I swim team, spent more than a decade swimming with SOLO Aquatics in Menlo Park. While at M-A, Sarah competed in the Central Coast Section Swimming and Diving Championships (CCS) where she broke M-A’s own school record in the 200 free with a time of 1:52.57 and placed fifth in the 500 free with a season best of 5:00.62-- No. 2 in M-A’s history.
Sarah, who started swimming under the tutelage of SOLO head coach Tom McRae when she was just eight years old, points to three unique attributes that make SOLO, and Coach Tom in particular, unique. First, the individual attention Coach Tom gives each of his swimmers helps ingrain and develop strong fundamentals. “I see other swim club coaches who either can’t or don’t interact much with their swimmers,” says Sarah. “Some of them just sit on the sidelines and take down the statistics. Coach Tom is constantly walking up and down the pool cheering you on during a race. At practice, he’s observing everything-- dissecting, whistling, correcting. He never stops teaching.”
Sarah also points out that SOLO Aquatics has a strong working relationship with M-A High School where Coach Tom also serves as the head swim coach. The fact that Coach Tom works just as effectively with highly competitive high school aged athletes as he does with young swimmers who are just beginning their aquatic journey highlights his passion as an educator, athlete and motivator. The result is an inspiring program that motivates young swimmers to develop into strong, passionate athletes who then feed into highly competitive programs. As Sarah puts it; “SOLO Aquatics brings nothing but positives to the City of Menlo Park. It is a support network in the swimming world and a conduit into competitive swimming. If it wasn’t for SOLO Aquatics, I would not have become an M-A swimmer and gone on to swim for a Division I school. SOLO provides Menlo Park with a first class swim club. It takes a stand-out club team to feed into the best programs. And SOLO develops you and prepares you for that next level.”
Lastly, despite his love of the sport, Coach Tom makes sure that all of the SOLO coaches keep their swimmers focused on the bigger picture outside the pool. “Coach Tom always reminded us that school and studying were priority one! With him”, laughs Sarah, “you get the ‘life lessons’: Do well in school first, then swimming. Never cheat at anything. And most importantly, it’s all about work ethic. You can’t let someone else do it for you. It’s the hard work that gets you places.”