Q&A with 2018-2019 swim team captains: Hannah Park, Juliet Youssef


Photo credit: Carolyn Park

Hannah Park ’19 swims backstroke at a swim meet at Crossroads School. Park and Juliet Youssef are the two varsity swim team captains.

It’s 65 degrees outside and pouring rain. While most people are inside, the Archer swim team is either practicing or at a swim meet. The Oracle sat down with swim team co-captains Hannah Park ’19 and Juliet Youssef ’19. Both girls have been on the varsity swim team since ninth grade.

What is your favorite thing about swim?

JY: Even though it’s a very individualistic sport — you are in a lane by yourself, you are competing, hypothetically, on your own all the time — we really have a great community of swimmers. I have bonded with every single person, especially the new freshman. The people who are on my team really are my family members.

HP: We know how to make each other feel better, whether that’s complaining together or hyping each other up. I just find such beauty in that because I think you really have to understand each other to know how to deal with emotions like that. We definitely do struggle together — every day we swim in the rain, cold. I think just the fact that even in an individual sport — like Juliet said — we can still stick together and know each other so well — that’s pretty amazing.

JY: And we breathe together.

Both: The team that breathes together wins together.

JY: Basically, Coach Wilma Wong, Class of 2018 Saskia Wong Smith’s mother, started these new things called RPR* where you [massage certain pressure points]. We also have mutual breathing. Spiritually, we are connected on a much deeper level.

HP: There are pressure points that help you. If you [massage the spot] in between your ribs it helps your breathing. A spot on your back helps your ab strength. It’s these things that you would never know work. So we [massage] before practice.

How has all of this rainy weather in Los Angeles affected the season?

JY: We always swim — rain or shine — unless it’s a physical threat to our safety.

HP: Like a little thunder.

JY: Exactly, but it’s really helped us bond. Obviously, it’s really hard to get out of the pool and be cold, but it’s fun no matter what.

HP: I love swimming in the rain. It’s a nice, cold shower while you are swimming. 

What is your favorite stroke?

JY: I really love breaststroke because I have been working on it for four years. It’s much more of a momentum thing than it is a speed thing.

HP: I think I have found a new love for backstroke this year. I have been swimming since kindergarten, so if I am finding a new stroke now, it’s kind of strange. Backstroke is different than all the other strokes, and it’s relaxing because you get to breathe the entire time.

What is a typical swim meet like?

HP: On the bus, we all hype each other up and do our breathing techniques. When we get there, we huddle together and breathe again. We go over the line-up together and then it’s go-time from there. Everyone just knows when to go and what to do.

JY: We get in the pool and warm up, [do] four sets of 50-meter swims, work on our stroke and some dives.

How has the season been going so far?

HP: The season is great. Archer has a streak of winning for the past four years and we are still winning. Last meet, one of the girls was like, ‘Yeah, when Archer’s there, we think that second place is actually first place.’ That’s a testament to how much of a team we are and how much effort we put into the team.

What is the best quality of the swim team?

JY: Perseverance and positivity. All of the people that I have met so far and I have known over the years never give up — they try their hardest and they also try new things. I know a bunch of new girls are trying five sets of 50-meters for the first time, which is amazing. No one ever has a bad attitude, they just go in and listen to Coach Ferri and Coach Wilma. It makes us better people but also better swimmers.

What goals do you have as team captains?

HP: My goal is to have fun. Swim [is seen as being] hard and arduous but as a team together we really can have fun and be positive. That’s honestly what would make this year better than the rest.

JY: As co-captains and seniors, part of being an upperclassman is taking all the lessons you have learned and giving that to the younger classmates so they know how to be more successful than we ever were. That is part of my goal.

*According to swim coach Stephanie Ferri, RPR stands for reflexive performance reset and is a way to engage muscles that are inactive. For example, massaging the sternum wakes up the muscles in the lungs to help swimmers breathe while at meets and practices.