Taylor has decided to retire from swimming after nearly 12 years of participating in competitive swimming.  It has been a good run for her with many successes, challenges, and friends along the way. She won high point trophies, Junior Olympic Championships, Zone Championships, set team records in club swimming and in high school she qualified for State Championships, made finals at State, was freshmen swimmer of the year, and set school records. While it is tough to see her leave a sport she is so good at, I understand her reasons and fully support her decision to move on to other pursuits.

Taylor’s swimming career really starts before she joined her first swim team… before she even took swim lessons.  It all started in our neighborhood pool in Rancho Santa Margarita. As a toddler she was in the water often and loved it. When she was two her sister, Alex, was taking lessons.  By the time Alex graduated from swim lessons to competitive swimming at 6, Taylor was ready to try lessons herself.

Swimming Starts

We signed her up for Swim America lessons at the Mission Viejo Nadadores swim complex where Alex was already a member of the swim team.  She did quite well and advanced through the first several levels quickly.  She ran in to a little issue though. She had a problem with boys (men) and that typically is who does the more advanced lessons (they generally let the girls deal with the real little kids).  The problem was she wouldn’t get in the water with the male instructors. She would sit on the edge of the pool and refuse to get in for them.

She was three, so we just called it good and quit doing lessons.  We figured she could wait to take the more advanced lessons when she was ready to deal with “boys”.  That meant she was hanging around at the pool while Alex was at practice. She was there every day with a couple of other little girls whose older sisters were also swimming for Mission Viejo.

The coach for the youngest girls was awesome with the little kids.  Coach Janet suggested that Taylor and her other two friends join the team.  All three were four at the team.  Janet rationalized that they were there every day anyway, so why not have them join the other kids in the water.  So at the young age of four Taylor joined the swim team.

It did not take long to see she was a natural as she was the only one who could do a lap of the Butterfly—legally.  It wasn’t fast, but she could go the entire 25 yards without being disqualified (and yes they DQ four year olds in swim competitions).  Also, she earned her 1st high point’s trophy as a four year old.  She won it at a small club meet where they had a 4 & under award.  I remember this well, because there was this loud mouth coach there that had a pretty good little 4 year old swimmer. When they announced the winner as Taylor Dschaak, the look on his face was priceless.  He was so flummoxed that he had to challenge it since he was sure his little swimmer would win. Taylor brought her first trophy home that day.

Great Lakes Aquatics

The next really defining time was when we moved from California to Michigan.  We joined a little team called the Great Lakes Aquatics.  I mean little. We left Mission Viejo with its 600+ swimmers to join a team of about a dozen competitive swimmers the youngest of which was 9 years old (the rest being 12+). Alex was nine, so she fell in with the other nine year old, Jessica Powers.  Taylor on the other hand was just six.

Having a swim team to join was great as it got the girls involved immediately, but it also had its challenges.  The program really wasn’t geared for a competitive swimmer Taylor’s age.  For one thing practice was an hour and a half. She was used to 30 minutes in the water and then there was a lot of time spent hanging on the lane lines getting instructions.  At GLA it was 90 minutes and little stoppage for instructions.  That was a lot more swimming especially for a six year old.

The coach for this group was a kid in college. He had no idea on how to deal with Taylor.  Taylor was crying in the pool because she just couldn’t do the sets he was running.  We weren’t swimmers either, so we didn’t really know what was best other than there needed to be some adjustment for Taylor.  So we told her all she had to do was swim 30 minutes, since she that was what she was doing before with the Nadadores.  She could get out anytime she was ready after 30 minutes. This seemed to work well. What was amazing was that it wasn’t long before she was swimming 60 minutes and then 90 minutes because she chose to.  And this was 60 and 90 minutes of swimming with not much down time.   It was really quite impressive.

One thing that really pushed her was her desire to keep up with Alex and Jessica.  She would start every practice swimming the sets with same pace as the older girls.  While she couldn’t keep it up for an entire practice she would hang in as long as she could.  This made her a very strong swimmer for her age.

The next challenge was swim meets. In California everyone was on the deck as the pools were outdoors. That meant we could walk Taylor up to her lane before each swim. In Michigan the stands and the deck was separate, so we could not be there for her. Well, she didn’t swim the first few meets because she was scared. She would just hang out on the pool deck with the team all meet.

That changed when we went to a meet and the meet director kicked her off the deck.  Only swimmers could be on deck.  She hated that.  Stuck in the stands with her parents for the entire meet.  Next meet she said she wanted to swim.  Coach Vince told her when it was her time to swim and sent her from the team area to the starting blocks. We watched her make the long trek over crying the entire way.  Like I said, this program wasn’t used to dealing with such a young swimmer—so different from our time at the Nadadores.  Even crying she got on the block and swam her race.  It was never an issue after that.

Cincinnati Marlins

We weren’t in Michigan for long.  Before Taylor was seven we moved to Cincinnati.  We knew when we moved that the girls would be swimming for the Cincinnati Marlins, since everybody said they were the club to join if we were going to move to Cincinnati.

Talk about a change for Taylor.  We were back to a club that was geared for all ages.  Based on Taylor’s age she was put in Mini-Marlins group.  It was laughable really. This group was for kids who were learning to swim 25 yards at a time. Taylor was used to going 90 minutes. Her warm up at GLA was more laps than she was swimming in a practice with the Mini-Marlins.

She would always the lead off swimmer and swam her 25 yards in seconds and then would sit on the pool edge waiting minutes for the other kids to complete their 25 yards.  While she could easily have moved up to the next group, we left her there.  She was having fun and swimming with kids her age. It was almost painful to watch practice at times since she spent most of her time waiting for the other kids.

When she was 8 she broke her arm and spent most of the Long Course season in a cast. She still managed to qualify for State in six events—the only 8 year to do so. A precursor of what was to come.

When she was 9 she won her 1st “State” Championship (aka Junior Olympics) at the Ohio LSC Long Course Championship Meet.  It was in the 100 Butterfly.  Yes, she was a Fly girl from the start. It was one of those swims in her career that was very memorable.   While she swam the fastest time in prelims, she had not come in to the meet with the fastest time, so we really did not know what to expect in Finals. She was behind early.  At the turn (50 meters) she was in third and a good three body lengths behind first.  By half way back to the finish she had moved up to second and was closing on first.  At 15 meters out she had caught the leader and pulled away for the win recording a time two seconds faster than anything she had swam before. It was a great example of her competitive spirit.

She followed that up the next year with three State Championship swims at the Short Course championship meet: 200IM, 50 Free, 100 Free.  Two things were surprising about this. First was that she didn’t win the 100 Fly. Second was that she beat Alisabeth Marstellar in two of those events. Alisabeth is an amazing swimmer and Taylor beat her in events that no one probably would have picked her to win going into State.

She finished the swim season by going to the Central Zone Meet where she brought home 5 medals: 2 gold, 1 Silver, and 2 Bonze. She, also, put her name on the Marlins Team Record board twice. She finished the year ranked nationally in the Top 16 for her age group (10 & under): 11th fastest 100 Fly – 1:15.70, 16th fastest 50 Fly – 33.90, receiving awards from USA swimming acknowledging her accomplishments.  It was quite a year in the pool.

At 11 she finally decided she was up to the Ohio State Open Water Championship.  She had decided not to swim in it previously as she just wasn’t sure about swimming a race in a lake for 1500 yards. She almost backed out when one of her friends had to withdraw due to injury.  Well, she swam it, won it, and set a meet record for 11-12 girls.

High School

When Taylor moved on to high school swimming, she continued brought her success to the Loveland High School swim team.   That same year, saw LHS hire a new coach, Dan Ketchum.  Dan is an Olympic gold medalist, so she was lucky to swim for a very talented coach.  Her freshman year saw her win the FAVC Conference Title in the 100 Fly and 2nd in the 200 back.  She went on to make it to finals in the 100 Fly, 14th overall, and was on the school record breaking 200 Free Relay which brought home a medal finishing 6th overall at State.  It was great seeing Taylor on the podium getting her medal from Coach Ketchum.  She was named LHS female freshman swimmer of the year. She finished her career with another trip to state.  While she didn’t make it to finals individually she swam on a relay at finals.  Little did we know that would be her last swim for LHS.

Like I said it has been a great run. As much as I wrote that just touches on her many accomplishments as a swimmer.  I am so proud of what she has done and appreciate the hard work and time it took to do what she did. In the end it came down to whether she still had enough passion for the sport to put in all the hard work to compete at the level she is capable of.    Now she can focus her energies elsewhere: high school, soccer, a job (?), and who knows what else.  I will support her in those activities same as I always did her swimming.


I recorded Sammy playing.

Here’s her “I wanna play” bark: Sammy playing bark.

Here’s her “Scary growl”: Scary growl


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