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The Accolade

The Student News Site of Sunny Hills High School

The Accolade

The Student News Site of Sunny Hills High School

The Accolade

GAME BALL: Senior swimmer holds Freeway League title as fastest in 50-, 100-yard freestyles

Image used with permission from Sheila Burgess
Senior Samantha Burgess prepares for the CIF-SS D2 Championship Finals at Riverside City College on Friday, May 3.

Senior Samantha Burgess said she has been drawn to the water since she was 5 years old.

Whether it was strolling the seaside or taking a dip in the hot tub, Burgess said she would often find herself immersed in the waves.

The senior swimmer said she still remembers the feeling of the cool water on her skin amid the hot summer sun whenever her family took a trip to the beach or spent time in the pool.

In fifth grade, she took it upon herself to join her first swim club at La Mirada’s regional aquatics center, Splash!

“I started at the bottom and found I had a real talent for it, so I was able to progress really quickly for my age group,” Burgess said. “At the time, I was only 10 years old.”

Her coaches were impressed at her technicality and speed compared to other students in her age group, she said.

Burgess said she then continued to swim for La Mirada Armada throughout elementary and junior high school before deciding to join the Sunny Hills swim team as during her freshman year.

Since joining the team, the swimmer said she has won the 50- and 100-yard freestyle events every year she has competed for the Lady Lancers. She’s also amassed a 58-2 record in the events competition league dual meet heading into the 2023-2024 season – the last because of releaguing starting next year.

With an 11-1 record across her events in the Freeway League Championship Finals over the last three years, Burgess uses her experience to lead her teammates to victory.

“If you do club, you’re generally more experienced than people who just do high school [swimming], so I wanted to be a leader for my teammates and maybe even break a record or go to CIF,” she said. “My current achievements have allowed me to set even higher standards for myself, and I’m proud of how I’ve come.”

Since joining the team, Burgess’ head swim coach Sergio Dorrego said she has proved herself worthy of these goals. Though the team does not have an official captain, Burgess typically leads the swimmers and is always there to help fellow swimmers navigate their own swimming journey, he said.

Her teammates also recognize her value to the Lady Lancers.

“Sam is really a team player and also wants to win,” junior Mia Carley said. “She always pushes me and others to do our best but is also very supportive.”

Carley said she recalls several times when the senior showed her support after the junior’s events.

“There have been times after races where I’ve been disappointed or upset, and she’s always been one of the first to comfort me either talking it out with me or just letting me cry with her,” she said.

Similarly, Dorrego said Burgess showed not just athletic, but personal growth during her time at Sunny Hills.

“As a club swimmer, Samantha is naturally independent; however, I’ve watched her spread her motivation to her teammates over the years,” Dorrego said. “She knows when to push someone to try their hardest while simultaneously guiding them as a friend.”

Burgess said she recognizes that a poor attitude will likely result in poor performance, so she aims to bring a positive mindset to her meets. The swimmer also hopes her behavior will inspire her teammates to follow suit.

“She [motivates] me when I trained with her and raced with her,” Carley said. “She is a person who is very caring, and I always enjoy being around her.”


Beginning her junior year, Burgess said she began to feel pain in her shoulder and back area. A trip to the hospital uncovered that she had bicep tendonitis, a condition in which the tendons connecting the bicep muscle and shoulders begin to swell. Consequently, Burgess took time away from swimming that season to prioritize her recovery.

Burgess said her family supported her to overcome her journey. Even when she was able to swim, her parents would make an effort to show up to each one of her games.

“As her mom, I support her by being there for her,” Sheila Burgess said. “I do it because as a parent, I support my child whether she loses or wins just so she knows there’s a familiar face in the crowd that’s there for her no matter what.”

For one year, the senior focused on physical training at her home, slowly regaining the strength in her muscles as well as her mobility. By the time she was back in the water, her skills had remained the same despite her break, she said.

“My success in my swim career is definitely a result of consistent hard work,” the swimmer said. “Ever since I was young, my club coach really emphasized this too — there aren’t any shortcuts; you have to take the long way out and hard work is really above everything else.”

Now, she continues to share these values with her mentor at the La Mirada Armada swim club.

“Over the years, you go from doing 4-5 workouts to 9-10 workouts — the most successful kids can be that successful because they are capable of adapting to the work,” Burgess’  La Mirada Armada club coach Rich Shipherd said. “Even though she still has so much ahead of her, Sam has proved herself to be very capable.”

Burgess’ hard work manifests in the amount of time she has dedicated to the sport.

“The 50- and 100-yard, which I race for in the club, too, is what I’m best at because I swim them all the time,” she said. “It takes a lot of practice, but I know exactly what I need to do and all the techniques I need to use.”

The senior said she believes her wins in the various championships and learning  a balance of self-control and dedication were the greatest accomplishments of her sports career.

“Despite all the challenges that come with being a student athlete, I can confidently say that I tried my best, so I’m just so happy and proud to have achieved these milestones,” she said.

To prepare for heats, Burgess said she makes sure to maintain a healthy lifestyle outside of the pool.

“She makes an effort to have a better nutritional value as far as what she puts into her body and the physical activities she partakes in outside the pool,” Burgess’ mother said. “She’s always been disciplined or motivated to whatever activities that she is involved in.” 

Most importantly, the swimmer said she makes sure to control her mentality in preparation for her races. 

“Out of everything, you have to know that you’re going to do well and envision winning in your mind, so you can carry that out,” she said. “It can completely change what you accomplish in your race.”

Though college swim coaches have reached out to her, Burgess has committed to San Francisco State University with a major in psychology. The senior continues to compete for the La Mirada Armada swim team in addition to the SH team, but after eight years of the sport, said it feels right to bring her career to an end after graduation. 

She said she hopes that future swimmers will recognize the importance of hard work and strive to achieve their own goals through perseverance.

“I’d like to wrap up my chapter with competitive swimming and try new things out of the pool,” Burgess said. “But honestly, I don’t think my love for swim could ever go away, so I would love to swim casually or just for health.”

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Jenna Kim
Jenna Kim, Staff Reporter
Junior Jenna Kim looks forward to being a part of The Accolade as a staff reporter. Having earned a Best of SNO award for her cub article in the Journalism 1 class, Kim hopes to accomplish lots more in the 2023-2024 school year. Outside of the newspaper, Kim can be found volunteering for clubs such as American Red Cross and Eco Club. During her free time, she enjoys going on walks, painting and meeting friends.
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