By Jeremy McDonald
SILVERTON, Ore.– Silverton Swim Coach Lucky Rogers put it best: Unbelievable.
He’s coached at Silverton for five years now and remembers when Samantha Zurcher told him about coming down funny during dance practice, eventually finding out she had fractured her foot.
Zurcher, then a sophomore, remembers telling her swim coach what’s up. Nerves were there of course, but not as much as the next morning when the condition worsened.
“When it happened during practice, I didn’t think much of it, my foot just felt uncomfortable. I knew I had to go and tell Coach Rogers that something was wrong with my foot, and of course I was a little nervous,” said Zurcher. “The next morning, I woke up and couldn’t put any pressure on my foot so I thought I should go to the doctors. They told me I fractured my foot! It was a big bummer considering I had two weeks till districts.”
Rogers remembers something along the lines of the time that the doctors told Zurcher could continue to swim and it wouldn’t have made matters worse. They pulled Zurcher out of the 100 Fly and the 400 Freestyle Relay and kept her workload simple with the 200-yard medley relay as she recovered during the off-season.
“She ended up swimming her best 50 in the relay, finally breaking 30 seconds. Then got third in District (meet) dropping three seconds, she helped the Medley Relay to a fourth place finish at State,” said Rogers. “(It’s) unbelievable. I played basketball in college with something similar but not near as bad. I describe an action like that as a Total Team Player. She powered through the pain. She also performed in the State Dance Competition. Pure grit.”
“My adrenaline got me through the pain. But most importantly was that I have been swimming with my relay team (Marie Tolmaff, Maggie Kelley, and Maddie Broyhill) since we were nine and there was no way I could let them down,” adds Zurcher, as the squad finished fourth in the State Race in 2018.
Zurcher was in a boot for about two months and the overall healing process was three months leading into her Junior year with her squad looking to build off their seventh-place finish the year before.
In 2019, with Zurcher healthy, the 200-yard medley finished fifth, the 400-yard medley sixth and Zurcher finished sixth in the 100-yard backstroke as the squad on the girls’ side finished sixth.
2020 was the big splash of the year. Silverton swimming had been on the up-tick during the years Rogers had been there, but the highlight had to be when the quartet of Zurcher, Tolmaff, Kelley and Broyhill had defeated Crescent Valley for the first time ever.
“My senior season we had some very high goals for our relays, which was to beat our rivals Crescent Valley. At districts we beat them for the first time and our relay time now holds the new distinct record for the medley relay. That was definitely the most exciting part of my season,” said Zurcher.
It was Zurcher’s breakout year in her events. Outside of the 200-yard and 400-yard relays, which finished third and fifth respectively, Zurcher finished fifth in the 100-yard freestyle and 100-yard backstroke as the Foxes finished third as a team in 5A this past Winter.
For Rogers, to see this girls team go from seventh two years ago, sixth last year and then third this past year, it’s one of those ‘pinch me’ moments people couldn’t believe had happened.
“To be honest, when I took over the team, I had goals that I wanted to see accomplished. A team trophy was never a thought,” said Rogers. “As Sophomores, we got 7th at State which was absolutely amazing. As Juniors, I thought they could get fourth and really moved some stuff around to get it. I think the pressure I put on them affected them. We ended up in sixth, still awesome.
“Then as Seniors, with fellow Senior Hailey Kelley and Freshmen Catherine Hyde I knew this was going to be as good as it gets. Six Quality Swimmers swimming in nine of the 11 events, three girls in the 50 Free and two in the 100 Back. All 3 Relays poised to do well. But I decided to not talk about it. We swam a lot looser at State and the rest is History. I feel like the really proud Dad knowing his kids just did something amazing. Very blessed.”
And as their High School careers wrapped up, something awesome is on the horizon for the quartet as they go on to swim collegiately. Three of the four girls, Zurcher, Broyhill, Kelley, all are going to be swimming together once more at Linfield this upcoming season.
It’s a rarity to keep the same group of swimmers on the same team, let lone as long as they have been together. Surely, it’s a blessing as they know each other quirks and tendencies as they embark on this next journey together.
“I am really thankful that we get to have three of the four teammates together again. That is not something that happens often, most swimmers don’t stay on the same team for more than four years but I have been lucky to grow up with them and now continue in college level swim,” said Zurcher. “I think it will be a good change for us to be the underdogs because we will have something to strive for and create new things to work for. I could not be happier to continue my swim career with some of my very best friends.”