Fallbrook High School senior Sam McDaniels signed a letter of intent to swim at Davis and Elkins College.
“Excited to start a new chapter in my life,” McDaniels said.
McDaniels signed the letter of intent April 18 at his DeLuz home. “I’m really excited to attend. I went and visited in February with my friend Nick (Nicolas Hiatt, who attends Escondido Charter School). It just seemed like home, like it would be a second home for me,” McDaniels said.
“We’re real excited to have him,” said Davis and Elkins coach Nick Smith. “He’s just a great student and a
Davis and Elkins is in Elkins, West Virginia, about two hours north of Charleston. The Senators are in
Division II of the National Collegiate Athletic Association. Davis and Elkins is in the Bluegrass Mountain
Conference which for swimming has 15 schools in West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Georgia.
“I am very excited to have Sam join our team. Sam has a true understanding of what it is our program is working towards, and with his work ethic and knowledge for the sport I certainly can’t wait to get him in the pool with the rest of the team,” Smith said.
Smith utilizes several recruiting Websites and began recruiting McDaniels in July 2012. “Davis and Elkins is the only school that really made an effort to reach out,” McDaniels said.
“He was one of our top recruits,” Smith said. “Finally he was able to come on a visit,” Smith said. “He got to meet the team, do a workout with the team.”
McDaniels and Hiatt visited the campus in February. “They were not used to all the snow and the cold,” Smith said.
About a foot of snow fell when McDaniels was in West Virginia. “He said it was the second time he’s ever seen snow,” Smith said.
“Not only did they make me an offer, but they were authentic and personal,” McDaniels said. “It just seems more appealing and more friendly, more personable.”
Elkins has a population of about 10,000. “When I went to visit it so much reminded me of Fallbrook,” McDaniels said.
Hiatt also signed with Davis and Elkins, as did a Northern California swimmer from Antioch. “We’ve done quite a lot of recruiting on the West Coast,” Smith said.
“I think it’s just fantastic that we’re able to help Sam get his scholarship and to pursue college swimming,” said Fallbrook coach Bill Richardson. “He’s earned the opportunity to benefit from having all of the hard work that he’s put in pay off.”
McDaniels was born in Fallbrook Hospital and lived in Fallbrook before the family moved to DeLuz in 2001. He attended kindergarten at Miss Sheila’s Barn, spent all of first grade and part of second grade at Iowa Street School and the remainder of second grade at the Robinson’s Ranch school, was at Maie Ellis Elementary School during third grade and La Paloma Elementary School as a fourth-grader, returned to Iowa Street School for fifth through seventh grades, and attended Potter Junior High School for eighth grade before his four years at Fallbrook High School.
McDaniels’ father, Bill, attended high school in Maryland and played soccer and tennis. His mother, Kerri, is from Mission Viejo and played basketball; she also ran track as a freshman. Bill McDaniels has been in Fallbrook since 1977, and after their 1986 marriage Kerri McDaniels moved to Fallbrook. Sam McDaniels also has a sister, Summer.
McDaniels was in fourth grade when he joined the Fallbrook Associated Swim Team. “I think it’s great,” FAST coaching director Sean Redmond said of McDaniels’ letter of intent.
“He kind of did this all on his own in finding a school,” Redmond said. “I think it shows that with hard work, not just in the pool but in the classroom because he has pretty good grades, that it does pay off.” Redmond noted that McDaniels was willing to leave California for the right college opportunity. “Sam is a
real good example of taking advantage of the opportunity that’s been given to him,” Redmond said.
“I think that the school is a real good fit,” Redmond said. “He’s going to be able to contribute to the team immediately.”
As a Fallbrook High School freshman in 2010 McDaniels competed in two individual events and two relay events at the CIF meet. He qualified for the consolation finals in both individual events, finishing eighth in the 500-yard freestyle with a 4:50.87 performance and tenth in the 200-yard freestyle at 1:47.89.
McDaniels was the second swimmer on the 400-yard freestyle relay team which placed fourth in the championship race. The 200-yard medley relay team in which McDaniels swam the breaststroke placed tenth, or fourth in the consolation race.
As a sophomore in 2011 McDaniels had a time of 1:02.02 in the 100-yard breaststroke to win the Avocado East League championship, and he was also on the 200-yard medley relay and 200-yard freestyle relay squads which won league titles that year.
During the 2011 CIF meet McDaniels’ time of 1:02.36 placed sixth in the championship breaststroke race while his 100-yard butterfly time of 54.13 seconds in the consolation finals gave him eighth place.
Fallbrook’s 200-yard freestyle relay team with McDaniels was second at the 2011 CIF meet and the Warriors’ 200-yard medley relay team in which McDaniels swam the breaststroke placed fourth.
McDaniels had a time of 1:01.87 to win the 2012 Avocado East League breaststroke championship. His time of 2:01.16 in the 200-yard individual medley placed second at the league meet, and he was on the winning 200-yard freestyle and 400-yard freestyle squads at the 2012 league meet.
At last year’s CIF meet McDaniels first contributed to a school record and an event championship in the 200-yard freestyle relay when he was the second swimmer on a relay team which won the race in 1:27.53.
The previous school record of 1:27.82 had been set in 2009; that relay team included Jacob Pril, a 2010 Fallbrook graduate who is now at Concordia University and was the Warriors’ last boys swimmer prior to McDaniels to earn a college athletic scholarship.
The oldest Fallbrook High School team record for either boys swim or girls swim prior to last year’s CIF meet had been the 1:00.80 Luke Salerno posted in the 100-yard breaststroke in 1985. McDaniels initially broke that record with a time of 59.50 seconds in the CIF preliminaries before lowering it to 59.41 seconds in the finals. McDaniels finished fifth in the championship race.
McDaniels also finished fifth in the 200-yard individual medley championship race at the CIF meet, posting a time of 1:58.33.
“He’s going to be hitting All-American status this year with the breaststroke,” Smith said. “He can do all four strokes very well.”
A high school swim meet ends with the 400-yard freestyle relay, and Fallbrook needed only not to get disqualified to win the 2012 CIF Division I championship. The extra caution to avoid a false start cost Fallbrook first place in that event, but the Warriors including McDaniels still placed second to give Fallbrook its first-ever CIF championship.
This year the Warriors shared second as a team in the Avocado West League, falling short of the league title for the first time in four years. “I think that the team functioned really well as a unit. We did our best in a new league with more difficult teams, and I think we performed really well,” McDaniels said.
As an individual McDaniels won two events at the league meet, completing the 100-yard butterfly in 54.70 seconds and the 100-yard breaststroke in 1:01.93. He was on the 200-yard medley relay and 200-yard freestyle relay squads which placed second.
McDaniels’ school breaststroke record lasted until the 2013 CIF meet preliminaries May 16, when he lowered that record to 59.10 seconds. His time of 59.76 seconds in the CIF finals May 18 placed fifth.
McDaniels didn’t set a school record in the 100-yard butterfly, but his time of 52.41 seconds in the finals gave him third place for his highest-ever individual finish at the CIF meet. That was also Fallbrook’s highest individual finish in 2013; the highest team finish was second place in the 200-yard freestyle relay anchored by McDaniels.
An impediment to McDaniels winning an Avocado League meet race as a freshman was that Fallbrook’s seniors included Kevin Reichel, Pril, Cameron Mannino, and Geoff Jameson. Those four were juniors in 2009 when they set the 200-yard medley relay school record of 1:40.51. In the 2013 CIF meet McDaniels swam the breaststroke in the medley relay; the school record was first broken when the Warriors swam the preliminaries in1:39.28 and the record was lowered to 1:38.66 in the finals. Fallbrook took fourth place at the CIF meet.
“I was pretty happy with that, I think. Really good way to end high school swimming,” McDaniels said of the 2013 CIF meet.
“He was able to come in every year,” Richardson said.
“It’s been great swimming for Fallbrook,” McDaniels said.
“Probably my most memorable moment would be winning CIF last year with just five guys (five Fallbrook swimmers and one Warrior diver qualified for the CIF finals),” McDaniels said. “I think breaking the record was pretty cool, too, but definitely winning CIF comes first.”
“Outstanding kid. He worked really hard. He’s a great leader,” Richardson said.
“It’s been a fun journey,” McDaniels said. “I’m just super thankful to Coach Richardson for leading us to so many victories and teaching us so many valuable lessons.”
The only other high school sport in which McDaniels participated was water polo. “I like hanging out with my swim team buddies,” he said.
McDaniels was on Fallbrook’s novice team as a freshman and spent part of his sophomore year on the Warrior junior varsity, although he gave up water polo for academics the other part of that season. He was on the water polo varsity as a junior and senior.
“He’s just a great kid, a great athlete. He’s been tremendous for us all four years of high school,” Richardson said. “Just a great athlete for us, great role model, very successful swimmer.”
McDaniels was also the treasurer of Fallbrook’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes chapter, a section editor on the yearbook staff, and a tutor in Mrs. Fellios’ class. He earned November 2012 Student of the Month honors for Fallbrook High School.
McDaniels has also been active with the North Coast Church high school ministry and also works with the ministry for fifth and sixth graders. He has also been a lifeguard at the Boys and Girls Club.
“He is the well-rounded athlete that we are always looking for here at D&E,” Smith said.
“He worked really hard to get what he’s getting, and he’s really earned it,” Redmond said. “His best
swimming is still yet to come.”
McDaniels plans to major in English and minor in education. He hopes to teach English at Fallbrook High School in the future, and he may also pursue coaching. “I’m going to miss the small town dearly, but I know one day I’ll be back,” he said.