Sarah Coffman is an outstanding swimmer for Richards. | Vincent D. Johnson~For Sun-Times Media
Sarah Coffman has a unique way of looking at sports.
Basketball, volleyball and softball ... no, thanks, right now.
But swimming? The Richards freshman found her spot and her sport.
“I was really awkward on ‘land’ sports as they say,” Coffman said with a smile before a recent practice. “I tried just about every other sport, and it just didn’t work out. Swimming also helped me to become less awkward (athletically). Now I’ve found where I fit in, and it’s helped me become a lot better at other sports.”
A swimmer since she was 8 years old at the encouragement of her mother, Coffman has stepped onto the varsity team as a freshman at Richards High School and has made her presence felt immediately.
She even broke a freshman-sophomore record for the 100-yard breaststroke that had stood since 1979.
Coffman’s two individual events are the breaststroke and the 200-yard individual medley.
The early weeks of the season did take an adjustment period as Coffman got back into the swing of things.
“When she came in, she was coming off a year, maybe a year and a half, off from swimming and club,” Richards swimming coach Joel Staszewski said. “She came back maybe not too sure where she stood loving the sport, knowing it would be different from age-group (organizations). I think the sense of team for her was awesome, and she has that love back for the sport.”
Coffman went through the frustrating dog days of the season like many swimmers as she watched her times refuse to drop, even rising here and there.
But in the postseason, as the Bulldogs went through taper training intended to rest the body and let times drop, Coffman is nearly back to where she wants to be.
“I was really disappointed because I wasn’t used to (the time struggles) with age group where it just kept going down,” Coffman said. “With tapers, the times are coming back down, and that’s what I’m looking for.”
Richards will compete at the upcoming Lyons Sectional on Nov. 16. Coffman is looking to get under the state cut in her two events, especially the breaststroke.
“The good (and bad) thing is that as a freshman, if you don’t make state you will be disappointed but there’s a lot of time to improve,” Coffman said. “Even if I don’t make it to state, I’m glad to have three more years (to try to qualify).”
Whether she qualifies or not, Staszewski has seen a transformation in the 6-foot-1 freshman. She started off as a quiet, even shy newbie to the team, but now she is looking to take more on.
Richards won the South Suburban conference title two years ago, the win coming down to the last relay.
“Watching the video, Sarah kind of meekly said, ‘I hope I’m not in that position,’ ” Staszewski said. “She was a little scared of having that weight on her shoulder as a freshman. I think she’s embraced it now, even asked about being on that last relay. She wants to be in, and she’s gained some confidence throughout the season.”