From depths of difficulty to diving-board-high heights, Cheney High School swim and dive coach Jennifer Hochwalt has never lost the passion for the sport she loves.
Hochwalt’s direction led this year’s girls team to an undefeated 8-0 season in Great Northern League meets and the Blackhawks’ first District 2A championship in her tenure with the team – to go along with a steady stream of first-place finishers in past state contests and individual coaching acclamations.
“The thing that keeps everything fresh for me is watching kids do something that they didn’t realize they could do,” said Hochwalt from Federal Way, Washington, on Friday after the Cheney boys team had finished its preliminary matches for the state tournament.
“Watching a kid break through a barrier, whether that’s making the state cut for the first time, making the district cut for the first time … watching the kids achieve their goals and just get really excited about their improvement is my favorite thing in the world.”
Multisport athlete Trae Babcock went on to highlight Cheney’s performance at state this year, finishing third in the boys 50-yard freestyle finals on Saturday, adding to the impressive history of state performances that Hochwalt has helped build as a coach.
In November, sophomore Janie Richards finished first in the girls 500 freestyle finals, taking home district champion swimmer of the year; Makenzie Norman won back-to-back 100 freestyles in 2014 and 2015; Alexis Schmidt won the girls 100 butterfly event for Cheney in 2016.
“It’s a fabulous opportunity to work with talented kids like that. It’s a great opportunity to have these kids reach their goals,” said Hochwalt, who’s been coaching at Cheney since 2009.
In that time, Hochwalt has steered the girls program to a 24-8 record, while the boys have gone 22-9 since 2015.
Hochwalt has picked up some individual hardware of her own, with honors including being named coach of the year at the girls district and state championships, and coach of the year at boys districts.
Still, the Mead graduate has never forgotten that it’s the swimming community – and effort it takes to reach the payoff – that makes it all worth it, not just the awards.
“I have this great group of kids and I have an amazing coaching staff, and those two things make my job fun and they lead to having a great program,” Hochwalt said.
“I love this job and I will do it until I can’t anymore. I live in the Riverside district, so I’m driving an hour for practice each way.
“Sometimes it gets a little rough, but I love this job and it’s worth the drive and I will continue to do it.”
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