Fiona Kuesis is the Phil Womble Award recipient from San Marcos.
The act of selflessness Fiona Kuesis showed a San Marcosteammate at the CIF Swimming Championships last spring is a perfect example of what the Phil Womble Ethics in Sports Award represents.
Kuesis was presented the award for high character and sportsmanship at Monday’s Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table press luncheon.
The junior student-athlete carries a 4.3 grade point average, plays water polo and swims for the Royals, is a member of the school’s Resource Family Association Student Support Team and HOSA, an international student organization that promotes career opportunities in the health care industry.
Outside of school, she’s put in several hours of community service work at Sarah House, a facility that provides end-of-life care for people with low incomes.
In addition, she has been a part of the Santa Barbara City Junior Lifeguard Program and is a member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
She's won several awards as an athlete, but it was her act of giving and the support of a teammate that overwhelmed San Marcos coach Chuckie Roth.
“She’s a phenomenal athlete, there’s no two ways about that,” Roth said. “In my program you have to swim and play water polo. She’s primarily a water polo player. These kids swim all year long, they work really hard, and we go to the CIF championships and try to be the best we can be.
“Fiona was an All-American (swimmer) as a freshman and she was really excited to repeat that her sophomore year.”
At the CIF Prelims, Kuesis swam in several events, including the 4x50 freestyle relay. The relay team qualified for the finals.
Roth had a senior athlete he took to the CIF Meet. Her times weren’t as fast as Kuesis, but Roth wanted to give her a shot. He had her do a time trial and set a standard for her to meet. If she swam 25.1 seconds, she could swim in the relay final.
She swam 25.3.
After watching her fall short of the mark, Roth told her, “I’m so sorry. You’ve done everything right for four years. I wanted to put you in this race but you had to go 25.1. I’m sorry I have to swim Fiona. She’s earned the spot.”
Roth said the two of them cried.
“I feel terrible. This girl’s high school season and career is coming to an end like this,” he said.
After the emotional moment, Roth said Kuesis told him: “I want to give my spot to Luisa. I want her to swim for me today.”
Stunned by her statement, Roth replied: “Wait, that’s your spot. You’re faster and we need to present ourselves the best we can. And she said, ‘No, the team needs Luisa today.’”
Roth called it a special moment.
“Everyone wanted Fiona to swim but they were so excited to have Luisa in that race. It was pretty amazing. I think it gave our team this huge sense of inspiration.”
The team finished third in the fastest heat for high schoolers in the country.
“We swam this amazing time and Luisa went on to be an All-American,” Roth said. “And Fiona gave that to her and gave her that opportunity.
“When the Phil Womble Award came up, I thought this is something that Phil would have really appreciated: a hard working student athlete that does everything right and finds a way to positively impact other people’s lives."
Kuesis said her decision was well worth it.
“If you knew Luisa, the joy she got by swimming that race means so much more than me getting a title as All-American,” she told the audience when she accepted her award Monday.
“Being able to see her and give her the opportunity surpasses anything I would have gotten out of it. “