Seals Alumni

The Seals are working on reaching out to team alumni to catch up with what they've been doing, and have them reflect on their time swimming Marin. We have recently made contact with siblings Melissa and Richard Fineman, who grew up in California and Guatemala, and competed with the Seals from the early to mid-2000s. Both have said that the Seals and Coach Mehrad were an amazing support system that taught them how to work hard, how to love working hard, how to have fun while doing it, and how to develop long-lasting and healthy life practices that helped make them both highly successful at what they do.


About Melissa Fineman

Melissa Fineman is currently pursuing a Master of Public Health, and expects to graduate  in December 2022. She was with the Seals from roughly 2002 to 2005, and also swam at Tam High. She still holds the 100 backstroke record at Tam.



About Richard Fineman

Richard Fineman has a Ph.D in Medical Engineering from MIT, and was with the Seals also roughly from 2002 to 2005.




Q & A


Seals: Please tell us about your swimming journey overall, and your journey with Seals.


Richard: Swimming was my introduction into athletics, in the summer of 2002 with the Seals and Coach Mehrad. It was the first time I ever really enjoyed sport and competition. Athletics had always been a challenge for me, but it was Coach Mehrad who always saw potential in me. It was thanks to him that I stuck with swimming and kept coming back every summer. Since we lived in California and Guatemala throughout the year, the Seals were a constant group of peers that made me always feel welcome.


In 2004-2005, I started swimming year-round with Coach Mehrad in Kentfield. Eventually I joined the Marin Pirates with Coach Warren and continued to swim through high school. MCALs in my senior year is still one of my fondest memories from high school that I cherish to this day.


Swimming had become such a fundamental part of my life that I could not see college without it. As a result, I walked on to the varsity team at Columbia University and swam all four years there. While I was never the fastest on the team, it was a fundamental part of my collegiate experience. That is what Seals taught me: Swimming is Life. I continue to swim multiple times a week to this day as I pursue long-distance triathlon.


Melissa: Since I was a baby, I have felt at peace in the water. When I was eight, my best friend from elementary school convinced me to try competitive swimming and join the Seals with her for the summer. Coach Mehrad recognized my love for the water and taught me everything I needed to race in my first Seals swim meet. After competing in my first 25-yard butterfly race, I knew swimming was for me. Sadly, I could only swim with the Seals over the summer because we lived in Guatemala during the school year. No matter how good or bad I was feeling, I always knew the Strawberry Seals team was a safe and supportive place.


Like my brother, I began swimming year-round with Coach Mehrad when we returned to live in California full time, and then went on to the Marin Pirates through high school. With the Pirates I went on to swim at Junior Nationals in Orlando for all four years of high school. I was the first swimmer from Tam High to ever win an MCAL event (the 100 butterfly) and break Tam High records (the backstroke record still stands). As a senior, I was recruited to swim at Brown University. After a year and a half swimming at Brown, I decided to retire from competitive swimming but remained in the world of aquatics as a swim coach, instructor, and lifeguard. I had the privilege to be an assistant coach with the Seals during the summer of 2014, a summer that holds a warm place in my heart and some of my fondest Seals memories. Now I only swim for fun and enjoy the peace the water still brings me.


Seals: Please tell us about your academic journey as well as your career journey.


Melissa: After graduating from Tam High, I attended Brown University thinking I would follow in my parents' footsteps to become a medical professional. After deciding to stop swimming competitively, I took a year off from school to explore who I was as a person without swimming. Upon my return to Brown, I changed my major to International Relations with the hope of returning to Guatemala so that I could give back to the country that has given me so much. During my last year, I volunteered to help administer a student health survey in rural Guatemala and fell in love with work. I spent a year working as an AmeriCorp member at a non-profit in Providence, Rhode Island called Farm Fresh Rhode Island, where I found another passion: food security. Now I am in my last year of pursuing a Master of Public Health, with an international focus on community and behavioral health. I am currently a grad student assistant on multiple studies in Guatemala, including a COVID transmission study, malnutrition program, and my own thesis. I plan to continue my studies and seek a PhD in Public Health to help develop community programs that fight food insecurity and strengthen local economies in Latin America.


Richard: I attended Columbia University, where I majored in Chemical Physics with a Minor in Mathematics. After an internship at NASA Ames Research Center, I was set working in the space industry. But I still had an interest in health and engineering, so after a year off from school I started graduate school at the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Science and Technology, where I studied how to apply engineering principles to challenges we face in clinical medicine, including some of the challenges we face in space! Toward the latter half of my graduate career, I started to specialize more and more in biomechanics and rehab (likely from my still active lifestyle). For my dissertation, I developed a series of algorithms for quantifying mobility assessments using various rehab facilities. Shortly after defending my PhD in 2019, I started working for Apple on the CoreMotion team as a Senior Health and Fitness Scientist, where I have worked on products such as Mobility Metrics, Cardio Fitness, and Walking Steadiness.



Seals: What do you like to do when you're not working, studying or swimming?


Richard: I still continue to swim but pursue triathlon now, so I spend a lot of time swimming, biking, and running! When I am not exercising, my favorite thing is taking my dogs to the beach.


Melissa: I love to cook, go to the beach, spend time with my dog and cat, and go to baseball games!






Seals: What did practices and meets look like when you were in Seals? What's your favorite memory and the most valuable lesson you learned? Any fun stories:?


Melissa: Swim meets with the Seals were all about fun, friends, team, and body art! We would use Sharpies to decorate our bodies with seals, "eat my bubbles," and strawberries. When it came to competing, all I wanted was to write my name on the best times board and to prove to myself and my team that I could do it.


I will never forget pulling up to practice one evening, my brothers, dad, and dog all crammed in the car. We open the car door and our golden retriever Ginger bolts out of the car, runs towards the pool, and jumps into the diving well. The pool erupted into chaos, as visualizing swimmers were jolted from their visualizations, and we all tried to pull the dog out of the water. We still talk about how Ginger holds the record in the 25-yard doggie paddle.


Richard: My fondest memories of the Seals were when we would all gather by the slide at the Strawberry Pool deep end for a cheer before the meet started! Coach Mehrad taught us a lot about team spirit, so I remember learning those and screaming in people's ears when they turned from breaststroke to freestyle during the 100 IM.




Seals: What does swimming mean to you? How has swimming helped you in your academic and professional life? How does swimming play a role in your character building?


Richard: Swimming is not an end in itself, it is the means to a greater end. Coach Warren of the Marin Pirates used to tell us that and I still believe it to this day.


Melissa: Swimming provided a lot of stability and consistency during a very hectic time in my life and taught me the true meaning of hard work and perseverance. It helped me get into the university of my dreams and gave me a community of support at school.


The most valuable thing I learned as a Seals was from Coach Mehrad. He taught me what it means to be a role model and a mentor through positivity and belief in the good of others.



Seals: What is one thing you would have done differently when you look back at your time on the Seals?


Melissa: I would practice visualization and mindfulness more seriously. It is a skill I never truly mastered and wish I had. It is not only a great way to prepare for swim meets, but also a great way to stay centered and calm as an adult.


Richard: Swim at Tam High instead of Strawberry... the new pool is so nice!


Seals: Do you have any suggestions for young Seals swimmers who aim to be a successful swimmers, successful learners and good citizens?


Richard: People won't remember a sore winner or loser. They will remember those who were good sports people. Treating others with respect and trusting them will get you far. In terms of learning, I have always thought that you truly don't know something until you can teach it to someone else. Spreading knowledge is a fundamental part of the learning process.


Melissa: It is easy to get caught up in the competitive nature of swimming, school, and career. Always remember, winning means nothing if you aren't happy with who you are. Put your physical and mental health before the modern-day pressures of success. As my brother said, teaching is one of the best forms of learning! Be compassionate and not quick to judge, we never know what others may be dealing with.