New swim coach is no stranger to local waters

by TERESA BYRD
Staff Writer | November 18, 2020 1:00 AM

Hayden Pierce takes the helm of the cooperative Columbia Falls and Whitefish high school swim team this fall as the squad’s newest head coach. In doing so, she will bring a sense of continuity to the young program which has seen at least four different head coaches in its seven year history.

The 22-year-old Columbia Falls graduate has been with the program since its inception.

Born in Arizona and raised in Boise until she moved to Columbia Falls when she was around 10, Pierce began swimming competitively for the Columbia Falls summer league during junior high.

At the time, the summer league was one of the few ways Columbia Falls swimmers could compete. There was no official high school team.

Once she became a freshman in high school, Pierce and several of her fellow summertime swimmers were instrumental in finding a way to change that.

They, along with their parents, helped establish a swim board that would create a combined Columbia Falls/ Whitefish swim team, a cooperative arrangement that benefited both towns, said Pierce; Whitefish didn’t have a team and Columbia Falls didn’t have a pool.

“We combined forces,” said Pierce. “We practice together at the Wave, and compete separately, but we are a true co-op team, we act as one.”

Pierce competed as a sophomore during the program’s inaugural 2013-14 season, becoming an integral competitor for the fledgling team. In 2016, as a senior, she helped the Columbia Falls girls take second at state, despite the team having only four swimmers.

After graduating from high school, Pierce remained an active member of the swim scene, staying on as a summer league coach for a couple seasons and subbing in as-needed for the high school coaching staff before becoming the official assistant coach for the co-op team two years ago.

Pierce is looking forward to managing the unique cooperative and has no plans of leaving any time soon.

“My coaching philosophy has always been that I love that we get to bring together Columbia Falls kids and Whitefish kids, which is traditionally kind of a rivalry, and we really show that we can come together and really form as one team. It’s been that way in the past and I want to just keep doing that as best as I can. It’s really cool and it’s really fun to be a part of.”

For anyone interested in competing on the swim team, email cfstboard@gmail.com.