Profile: Skyline’s Jyawook doesn’t let EMU’s decision dunk his passion for swimming


Samuel Jyawook had his bags and goggles packed. He was heading down the street to Ypsilanti with a syllabus and swimming scholarship in hand ready to join the Eagles in the pool and the classroom.

But just after making his big decision, Eastern Michigan University made a bigger decision by draining swimming and diving from their athletic department.

Jyawook, needless to say, was left standing on the pool deck in disbelief.

“A lot of it had to do with Coach Linn,” said Jyawook, the standout senior Skyline swimmer, on his decision to remain an Eagle. “He watched almost all of my

practices and he really liked my enthusiasm to work hard and my love of swimming. The team also had a culture I didn’t find anywhere else at the time.”

It looked like a perfect fit. Until it wasn’t.

“I found out that EMU cut the program on the morning of March 20,” Jyawook said. “(The possibility) never came up in any conversation. I was devastated when I read the email.”

Jyawook, a key member of the state champion Skyline swimming and diving team this past season, decided swimming was too important, too much a part of his DNA, to attend college and not have swimming on his daily schedule. So he packed his bags – again.

“It came down to West Virginia, Utah and Grand Valley State University because they all offered the swimming program and education I wanted,” he said. “I am choosing to go to the University of Utah because it offers a great finance program and a stellar distance program.”

Jyawook was one of several key swimmers who helped the Eagles land in first place in last month’s Division 1 State Swimming and Diving championship. Skyline finished second last year and a strong senior class helped push them over the top in 2018.

Jyawook finished third in 4:33.94 in the 500 freestyle and was fourth in 1:41.74 in the 200 freestyle for two top-five swims in the state finals. He also was a member of the winning 400-yard freestyle relay team. He leaves Skyline with the SEC Red record in the 500 free and the conference record in the 400 free relay.

Despite his success in the pool, it wasn’t always smooth waters for the talented swimmer at Skyline.

“My four years at Skyline was a bumpy and confusing one,” he said. “I quit swimming after my sophomore state meet. I didn’t want to swim. I was burned out.”

Skyline standout swimmers (L-R) David Cleason, Samuel Jyawook and Keith Kozma. 

But he found that spark again and it turned out to be a good thing for him personally as well as for the team.

“I think one thing I learned is that staying healthy mentally is more important than being in the greatest shape,” he said. “Another is that swimming and life isn’t linear and you need to love swimming for swimming. I loved every second of swim season this year and I will remember finishing the 400 free relay and just looking at my team. I don’t think this year would have been the same if it wasn’t for Mojo (Coach Maureen Issac). “Without Mojo, Stew and Kent we wouldn’t have won. I think they really helped us become a team this year.”

Jyawook also spent the past six years swimming for Club Wolverine.
“They helped develop me as a swimmer and as a person,” he said. “They also helped me understand training and the importance of swimming all year long.”

He began swimming at the age of 6.

“My mom always swam when she lived in Japan,” he said. “I first started swimming with the YMCA and then joined Club Wolverine when I was 12.”

He will join the University of Utah in the fall as Jyawook keeps swimming along despite some “bumps” along the way.



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