WENATCHEE — There is no question Kara Melton, the new girls’ swim and dive coach for Wenatchee, has some big shoes to fill when the season gets underway in March. She’s taking over for a legend in James Elwyn and will lead one of the premier girls’ swim programs in the state.
But standing on the pool deck, she feels at home.
A former Wenatchee Panther who graduated in 2008, Melton was a four-time state participant in the 200 and 500 Freestyle under the late James Elwyn and swam four years at Whitworth University. She taught at Pullman High School for a few years before coming back to Wenatchee in 2015 after receiving a call from Elwyn.
“He said there was a job opening in special education, which is what I went to school for, and that it was time for me to come home,” Melton said over the phone Tuesday. “That was always his thing with me.”
After getting the job and moving back to Wenatchee, Melton started helping out with the swim program immediately.
“James had started an adaptive swimming program for both boys and girls and was looking to grow the number of participants in adaptive both at Wenatchee and at the state level,” Melton said. “I helped with that and volunteered with the girls, specifically with distance freestyle events. It was a time I cherished and it meant a lot to coach with James, who was a mentor and my favorite teacher.”
Many in the community, including Melton, are still grieving for Elwyn, who died this past June. She said it was an honor to take over for the coach that had such a big influence on her.
“I see this as a continuation of his legacy and a way to give back to a program that gave so much to me and other alumni,” Melton said. “Doing this is a process of healing I think.”
During a typical season, the girls swim team would be nearing the end of its regular season right about now. But because of COVID-19, the team hasn’t been able to get into the pool, and won’t until at least Nov. 2.
Melton said they’ve had a captain’s meeting with seniors and upperclassmen divers. And some of the girls have been able to train over the summer in Lake Chelan. Nevertheless, she’s hoping the girls will be able to get back into the pool in November.
“We need permission from the district to start indoor athletics, but we might have to push our start date back,” Melson said. “Hopefully we can get in the pool, we’ll do some dryland but the most important thing for us is to get some pool time. We haven’t had any and we need it.
“I am super proud of the girls though because they’ve found creative ways to train on their own and stay in shape. I think that will give us a leg up come March.”