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Park City’s Sara Wall dominates her competition

The 2-time individual state champion seeks another title

Park City swimmer Sara Wall has won an individual state title in back-to-back years and continues to excel in the pool this season.
David Jackson/Park Record

As usual, nobody could catch Park City senior Sara Wall during Friday’s meet against Murray. 

Wall won the 50-yard freestyle by nearly half a second and was back in the pool just two events later for the 100 fly. The senior was well ahead of the pack in that one, too, beating teammate Gretchen Lane by more than a second. Both of her relay teams won by wide margins as well. 

“It’s kind of harder at these smaller meets because there’s not as much competition,” Wall said. “I can’t really tell what time I’m going, so today I added some time, even though I won. But it still feels really good.”



Swimming laps around her competition is nothing new for Wall, the two-time defending state champion in the 50 free. The senior continues to prove herself as one of the top swimmers in the state, and she’s hoping to win another state title in the 50 free. The individual state titles came as a welcome surprise, but she believes she has a good shot at making it three in a row this year. 

“I won the 50 the year before, and I wasn’t expecting it at all, and then I really was not expecting it at all last year, either,” Wall said. “When I won, I was actually super surprised. It was really nice, and I’d love to win it a third, but we’ll see.”



Wall previously swam distance events, but she started experimenting with shorter events for her high school team. She’s had plenty of fun with sprinting, but her combination of the 50 free and the 100 fly is a little complicated because of how close they are in the meet order. On Friday, she swam in the first event, the 200 medley relay, and then the 50 free and the 100 fly were the seventh and ninth events, respectively.

“It’s kind of brutal on the arms because the 50 (free) and the 100 fly are back-to-back races, so I only have, like, 10 minutes in between,” Wall said. “I kind of have to just cool down completely, or else my arms are super sore. It’s definitely kind of an adjustment. The 100 fly is a lot harder than the 50 free.”

Sara Wall swims in the 400-yard medley relay during a meet earlier in the season.
David Jackson/Park Record

Wall’s journey to becoming a formidable foe in the pool began in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Her father was offered a job there, and Wall learned to swim during their time there. Wall also went to a British school with “like, 100 nationalities” as one of a few Americans. Wall and her family ended up moving back to the States when she was 12. 

“Just totally different from here,” Wall said. “When I came here, it was just like a whole new world for me basically because that was my childhood. We lived there for five years. It was, like, all I knew.”

Thanks to some strong coaching growing up abroad and in the U.S., swimming has always stuck. But the team aspect is a major motivator as well.

“You always have friends supporting you in your races and standing behind your block and stuff,” Wall said. “I’ve made so many friends from it and all on different teams. It’s really fun to go to big meets and race all your friends from big teams.”

Teammates Bridget Lane and Abby Dietrichson are among the friends Wall has made through swimming over the years. Lane and Wall try to make practices lighter and more enjoyable together by laughing through it together, but Lane also sees Wall as a source of inspiration.

“She’s really fast, and it’s just cool to see how far she’s taken the sport,” Lane said. “Also, her attitude, too. She can be really fun to be around and really positive, and it’s encouraging to me and other people on the team.”

Dietrichson, meanwhile, has a friendly rivalry with Wall, her main competition on the team in the 100 fly, even if Dietrichson will admit Wall is a little out of her league. 

“I always try to keep up with her, but she always pushes me to try and keep up with her, too,” Dietrichson said. “It’s a good, mutual, head-to-head kind of thing, but it’s really great. She always pushes everyone to do their best, and she’s always super supporting, even though she’s an amazing swimmer.”

“It really fuels me, and it makes it more fun when I swim next to her,” Dietrichson added. “That is my best friend. How many people that swim on our team can swim next to their best friend?”

The two will also swim relay races together, like the 200 medley relay to open Friday’s meet. They do their best to hype each other up and then lay waste to their competition.

“She swims free, I swim fly, so those relays get super fun,” Dietrichson said. “We do funny little dances to each other and we kind of hype each other (up). It really gets fun.”

Not many coaches get to inherit a team with a two-time individual state champion in their first year with a new squad, but that’s the situation Park City coach Gadi Shamah walked into this year. 

“Selfishly, I wish she would swim year-round for me on the club team as well,” he said. “But she’s been a great role model on the high-school (team). It’s one of those things in Park City, we’re just very lucky. We have a great crew and she’s obviously one of them.”

Shamah praised Wall’s work ethic, saying that she never misses practice and does all the training sets. There’s no superstar treatment in the Park City program.

“It’s hard work and talent mixed together,” Shamah said. “When you get that combination, you’re going to get those state champion standouts. She’s also, like I said, very polite, and it’s just great to have her.”

Outside of the pool, Wall is an artist, another holdover from her days in Abu Dhabi, where she says there was a heavy emphasis on the arts. She prefers acrylic painting and sketching.

“I just have always loved art and I’ve stuck with it through high school,” she said.

As a senior, Wall doesn’t envision a future in the pool. While she said she considered swimming in college, she didn’t want to commit to another four years in the sport. But Wall is still focusing on being the first one to touch her namesake, the wall, at the state championships in February.

“I was younger then, and if I was winning then and now I’m older, I should be going faster,” Wall said. “It definitely does put pressure (on me), but it kind of has been my motivation this season to get me to hopefully win it for the third time, but we’ll see.”

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