This one quote from Quoia Sam not only best sums up the talented junior swimmer but the entire Pioneer swim program as a whole: “I’m definitely not anywhere close to being satisfied.”
Sam and her Pioneer teammates had some great success, but never being satisfied has helped push them to the top of a highly competitive mountain. The Pioneers finished second in the state last year by the slightest of margins and they accomplished that with a young team, a talented team and one that’s never satisfied.
“Team wise, we had a dynamic season with 40 awesome swimmers on our team this past year,” says Sam who is much more comfortable talking about her awesome team than her awesome self. “Each member of the women’s Pioneer swim and dive team showed determination and perseverance that ultimately resulted in our undefeated swim season, co-champs at SECs, and placing as finalist at States.”
Sam said one of the keys to their success was trusting and depending on each other to work hard, communicate well and encourage each other to press forward to be the best team they could be.
That best ended up being second best by a half point in the State finals. Still, there is no disappointment in Sam’s voice when talking about last year’s close finish.
“The State final was one of the most exciting times I’ve ever encountered in my swimming career,” she says. “I’m really grateful I got to share the experience with my teammates and coaches. Feeling the love and support from the stands was amazing. Swimming and cheering with my teammates was one of the biggest highlights for me.
“We all had one goal, and that was to succeed as best as we could and make ourselves and each other proud. Our team encouraged one another to push ourselves to our utmost potential, and I believe we did that phenomenally.”
Sam said by pushing each other they pushed the entire team to the best they could be – and that’s all a team can ask for and expect.
“We worked hard and grinded out the season until the very end,” she said. “Holding up that second-place trophy with the rest of my teammates was very significant to me. I believe we took advantage of every opportunity and States couldn’t have been a greater experience for me.”
On the individual side of the pool, Sam says this past season was “one of my best seasons to date.”
“I started off the season with obtainable goals for myself,” she said. “For instance, one of my goals was to be top five for the 100 back, which I obtained by placing second overall with a time of 55.54 and landed me my first Junior National cut for USA Swimming.
“One of my greatest highlights from the season was having the opportunity to be the lead backstroker for the 200 medley relay that broke the Pioneer pool record.”
Sam enjoyed swimming from an early age. She calls it her “passion.” She enjoyed swimming so much that she started swimming competitively for Club Wolverine at the age of 9. When she was just 11 years old, she received her first state cut in the 50 back.
“I loved the competitive aspect of swimming, the team atmosphere, and found that swimming allowed my mind to release the everyday stress, and was able to maintain focus on life inside as well as outside the water,” she says. “I’m fortunate to say swimming has allowed me to be on teams with some of the best swimmers that I can call teammates, as well as my friends.”
At Pioneer, she has qualified for the 100 back for the past three years. Her freshmen year, she placed 11th at states with a time of 57.39. She went 56.29 to finish fifth as a sophomore year and moved up to second last year in 55.54.
The Pioneers have one big goal heading into next season.
“I believe our ultimate goal for next season is to shoot for that first-place spot at states,” says Sam, who praises coaches Stef Kerska and Pat Zakrajsek for creating such a winning atmosphere at Pioneer. “Individually, my goal is to be first place for the 100 backstroke at states, and to continue building old and new friendships on the team.”
Sam, who said she is proud to be one of the swim team captains next season, also has made her positive energy felt at Pioneer outside of the water.
“I had the opportunity to be part of a group known as PPI or Peer Positive Influence which helps students around school with personal struggles,” she says proudly. “I am currently in another group called Restorative Justice – similar to PPI – however, the group is known to assist conflict between people and help resolve issue(s).”
Quoia, the daughter of Deanda and Quinton Sam, hopes to splash her way right into college and take her competitive nature to the next level.
“My plan after high school is to go to a university to continue my swimming career and pursue a degree in psychology,” she says. “I have not committed to a college yet. Penn State and University of Buffalo are two of my top choices.”
MAIN PHOTO: Jodi Bullinger