Senior leaves girls swim team with perfect Freeway League record

Senior+Kailee+Chow+breezes+her+way+through+the+500-meter+freestyle%2C+finishing+in+first+place+at+El+Dorado+High+School+on+Feb+23.+She+later+broke+the+Sunny+Hills+record+for+the+100-yard+butterfly+event+with+a+time+of+55.65+and+secured+the+Division+2+CIF+title.

Image used with permission from Joyce Pau

Senior Kailee Chow breezes her way through the 500-meter freestyle, finishing in first place at El Dorado High School on Feb 23. She later broke the Sunny Hills record for the 100-yard butterfly event with a time of 55.65 and secured the Division 2 CIF title.

Alex Lee

Perfection. A feat so few have accomplished.

The Miami Dolphins in the 1972-1973 season remains the only NFL team to go undefeated after winning the Super Bowl against the Washington Redskins in 1973.

More recently in 2020, the Alabama Crimson Tide football team never lost a game, also taking home a national title.

And now senior Kailee Chow can add her name to that list of perfect records after the four years she has competed as a swimmer for Sunny Hills.

“She never lost a race in Freeway League competition during her four years,” boys and girls swim head coach Keith Nighswonger said. “I don’t recall this happening before.”

Besides joining this small club of the undefeated, Chow set a new Sunny Hills record in the 100-yard butterfly at the CIF-SS swim meet at the marguerite aquatint center on may 6 with a time of 55.65 seconds, .45 seconds faster than the previous record set by Class of 2020 almuna Katie Cho.

“It was an event I had always struggled with, so breaking the school record is an achievement I will never forget,” Chow said. “The last time I had ever dropped time in that event and went lower than 56 seconds was my sophomore year right before feeling sick the following day.”

Nighswonger said he was not surprised that his top swimmer would set a new SH record in this heat.

“As our season went on, it became apparent that she had a good shot to get this time,” he said. “We always like to see records broken. … There were some very fast swimmers there, and sometimes that helps a swimmer find a little more to break through the time barriers.”

SWIMMING AT A YOUNG AGE

To get this good, it’s not surprising that Chow started getting used to the pool at age 2.

Chow said she was introduced to swimming when she took water safety lessons at a facility in Arborland. 

She soon fell in love with the sport and joined her first club team, Fullerton Aquatics Sports Team [FAST], when she was 8 years old. 

“I gradually got better and found a love for competing in swimming because it’s not only a race against seven other girls,” Chow said. “It’s also a race against yourself.”

The senior said she was involved in a variety of other sports growing up, such as dance, basketball and gymnastics, but the athlete said she ultimately chose swimming because it was the best fit for her.

As Chow turned 13, her swimming career took off when she attended her first California/Nevada Sectionals, where she swam in two events and dropped time — getting a faster record than her previous record — in both, as well as placing Top 26 in the 400-meter freestyle.

“I was the youngest in the group [competing], and I had a huge support group to cheer me on, which included a lot of kids that I looked up to,” she said. “It was my first time competing against college kids and elite athletes, which was really inspiring, especially being on the younger end of the competition.”

CHALLENGES AT THE HEIGHT OF THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC

Entering her freshman and sophomore years as a varsity starter for the Lady Lancers, Chow said she struggled with the 100-yard butterfly as she was hardly dropping time and never excelled in sprinting events.

And then the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March 2020, which led to the abrupt end to all spring sports, including swim and dive. Chow would not compete again for the Lady Lancers until the next school year under an abbreviated sports schedule set by CIF.

“After being away from the water for so long, it was hard to find a feel for the water again and build up the endurance that I had lost over that time,” she said.

Throughout this difficult period, Chow said she attributes her ability to recover and remain optimistic to her teammates.

“Keeping a good and positive mindset helped keep me motivated as well as seeing my teammates every day and knowing that I wasn’t the only one that was having a hard time,” the senior said. “Although it was hard to bounce back into the swing of things, I didn’t give up, and I couldn’t have done it without my teammates.”

CLUB TEAM CONTRIBUTIONS & COLLEGE RECRUITMENT

Behind all of Chow’s success comes her FAST club team, which she said helped develop many relationships and learned beyond just competing.

“I’ve always felt accepted and pushed to my limits on this team,” she said. “My teammates and I always support each other, and I think that’s super valuable in a sport.

In FAST, Chow said she holds the club’s fastest times for 10 and under 200-meter IM, 13-14 100 meter butterfly and 200-yard butterfly, 15-16 100-yard butterfly and 200-meter butterfly and 17-18 200-yard butterfly and 100-meter butterfly.

Her club and high school swim teammate senior Skyler Kao – who will continue swimming at the University of California, San Diego, after graduation – wishes Chow the best of luck in her college endeavors.

“I’ve known [Chow] for a while now, and seeing her passion and love for the sport, I know she will excel even in college,” Kao said.

Chow will attend the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa for the next four years to take her talent and further pursue swim.

“Going into college, I expect that she will be a key member of the team with the goal of competing at the NCAA Championships,” said  Brian Brown, Chow’s FAST coach. “Kailee is one of the toughest trainers I have ever worked with, and I can see her passion in every stroke she takes, so I have no doubt she will live up to these expectations.”

Chow said during her junior year in April 2021, she committed to attend the University of Hawaii, where she will compete with the swim team in the 200-yard butterfly, 100-yard butterfly, 500-yard free and occasionally the 200-yard free

She declined to give details about what kind of scholarship she was offered because of NCAA and University of Hawaii regulations.

Chow’s FAST coach, Brian Brown, sees one of his top swimmers as having continued success at the collegiate level.

“Going into college, I expect that she will be a key member of the team with the goal of competing at the NCAA championships,” Brown said. “Kailee is one of the toughest trainers I have ever worked with, and I can see her passion in every stroke she takes, so I have no doubt she will live up to these expectations.”

But the pool will not be her lifetime activity. Chow said she plans to major in business marketing so she can eventually work as a real estate agent and provide insurance quotes for customers. 

“My mom does house mortgages as a side job, so I have always had an affinity for sales and wanted to carry on the legacy she created,” Chow said. “I’m not sure if I will continue swimming competitively following college, but I definitely want to stay in shape and maintain a feel for the water.”