What started out as a few parent-enforced swim lessons, quickly turned into a long-term passion for Emma Lam. Now a highly competitive and decorated swimmer, Emma’s introduction to swimming was not much different from most children’s. A family of avid travelers, Emma’s parents were eager to get her swimming independently at a young age. As many young kids do, she took a few lessons here or there around the ages of 4 and 5 but stopped once she had gotten the basics. However, a reintroduction to the pool years later led her to a whole other level of swimming that required an extreme amount of commitment and athleticism.
At the age of 8, Emma started lessons again. To her surprise, the coaches were impressed by her swimming and tried to convince her to compete. Emma initially shied away from the idea of competition, and it was not until the next year, that classmate and friend Sarah Woo ’17 convinced her to join summer swim league. There, Emma found her love for swimming and met some of her closest friends.
Emma’s second year of summer swim league already brought her a series of impressive accomplishments. At only 10 years old, Emma made it to Northern's and All-City’s, two of the three championship meets for summer league swimming. “Making All-City’s for the relay was a big deal, and that was where I really started to gain confidence in my swimming,” Emma says.
With that newfound confidence, Emma decided to take her swimming to the next level and try out for a club team. She joined Excel in 6th grade and started practicing three days a week for 30 minutes.
"In middle school, I was a part of the dance team, which took priority for me over my swimming, so the short practices worked well for my schedule," Emma explains. The big club meet is known as Regionals, where swimmers from seven different states compete. Her first year at Excel, Emma missed the cut to qualify for Regionals in the breaststroke by only two-tenths of a second. However, after bumping her practices up to an hour a day the following year, Emma made Regionals and has continued to qualify every year since then.
In her sophomore year, Emma decided to dedicate herself to swimming, so she joined the Central Area Aquatics Team, or CAAT, which she is still currently a part of. Emma practices for two hours, six days a week, and rarely if ever misses a practice. Along with her busy practice schedule, Emma has a couple two-day meets each month.
“The thing I liked best when I first joined CAAT was that there was a much bigger focus on teamwork, confidence, and self-motivation,” Emma explains. Emma says that her coach puts a lot of focus on recognizing how each individual is performing, and then motivating them accordingly. This additional focus does little to distract from the competitive aspect of swimming, however. While swimming for CAAT Emma finished 10th and 11th at the state meet for the 100-yard breaststroke, and made it Sectionals every year for the 50, 100, and 200-yard breaststrokes.
With her senior year coming to an end, Emma has had to think a lot about what it is she plans to do with swimming in the upcoming years. “A lot of my friends have quit sports they’ve been doing for years this year, but I want to finish what I’ve started, and well,” Emma says. She hopes to qualify for Futures, a highly competitive meet that will take place at the Stanford swimming pool.
Although Emma does not plan to swim competitively for a college next year, she is interested in joining a swim club if her school offers it. For now, Emma continues to indulge in her passion and is working hard to achieve her goal of making Futures.