Sam Caldwell is no stranger to the water. The Arizona native swam competitively in college for Arizona State University, making it to the Pac-12 Championships all four years.
However, during the State Games of Mississippi's Masters Swimming events at MCC, she came in with a slightly different approach.
Caldwell, who serves as an assistant coach for Meridian Swimming Association, returned to competition for the first time since graduating college in 2011, using the same advice she gives her swimmers in practice to rack up five gold medals on the day.
“I swam all of my life, but now that I'm on the coaches side, I know how they feel,” Caldwell said. “It helps when you start to hurt. You follow what you tell your swimmers, kick more, put your head down.
“It's like when I swim, I have to do everything I tell them, because if I don't then they will be like 'you didn't do it, so why do I have to?'”
After finishing college, Caldwell had no plans of ever coaching swimming. However, after her boyfriend was stationed to Naval Air Station Meridian, she decided to check out Meridian's swim scene and see if she could help in any way.
“I was very against it at first,” Caldwell said of becoming a coach. “I ended up loving it though.
“I love that you can coach your swimmers and see that they improved every time and knowing that what you are doing is really helping them.”
Caldwell took home golds in the 50-meter freestyle, 100-meter freestyle, 200-meter freestyle, 50-meter breast stroke and 100-meter back stroke, breaking the State Games record in each event.
Though she enjoyed herself on the day, Caldwell isn't quite sure she's ready to get back in the water for good, stating she is unsure on if she will compete in next year's games as well.
“I'll continue to coach, but we'll have to see about master's swimming,” she said. “It's hard here because there is no masters program. Every once in a while, I'll get in with the swimmers, but I haven't trained or anything.”