High School Sports

Southeast junior leads by example

Emily Chesser doesn't need much motivation to stay in the pool and swim those extra laps. The water is where she feels most comfortable, and the pool always awakens the most competitive part of her being.

So to those who know her, it is no surprise that the Southeast junior has qualified for the Class 6A championship meet for the third consecutive season. And though it is a little out of the ordinary, most wouldn't be surprised that she spent three days as the team's interim coach.

"It was tough, but I enjoyed helping the girls and trying to get them to get better at their strokes and learn more about swimming," Chesser said. "But it was also pretty hard because I was focusing on them more than I was focusing on myself, and it kind of took a toll on me."

Chesser and the team's senior leader Ciciley Withers teamed up to lead practices after former coach Aaron Moss resigned in April following a family emergency.

"We both help each other out with leadership roles," Withers said. "I feel like she is the 'tough, let's get to work' kind of girl. I'm kind of the more sentimental motherly figure for the girls."

When current coach Emily Hood took over, she was happy discover the amount of responsibility her upperclassmen were able to handle.

"When they called me about the position and let me know about the situation they told me that ( Chesser) was pretty much leading the practices," Hood said. "It takes a special person to be able to do that. She definitely is a leader on the team even as a junior."

Hood made a good first impression on Chesser and Withers, who were both aiming to qualify for consecutive Class 6A championship appearances. Chesser remembers how demanding Hood was and how she didn't leave much room for nonsense in practice. Those were characteristics that Chesser welcomed.

"It was a little bit of an odd situation," Hood said. "One of your team leaders is actually coaching the team. I felt bad for all of those girls, because it was kind of a mess. When I came in I laid down the law. I said, 'This is the way it is. Be prepared to work hard. You will probably never have another season like this.' The girls who wanted to be a part of that stayed, and the ones didn't decided to do something else."

Hood said all of the swimmers noticed significant drops in their times. Chesser qualified for state in the 100 backstroke and the 200 IM. Chesser's best event is the backstroke, and she set a personal record at 59.73. That was third-fastest qualifying time for the 6A meet. Withers, who qualified in the 100 backstroke and 200 freestyle, also set a personal best in the backstroke under Hood (102.77).

Hood said best times in swimming are contingent on talent, but dedication to practice also has to come into the equation.

"To have someone with Emily's talent that actually wants to go out and work hard is icing on the cake for me," Hood said.