Kenai's Taylor Moore competes earlier this season.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
Whether it’s math, science or swimming, Kenai Central senior Taylor Moore isn’t afraid of the laborious work it takes to find the right answer and get to the next level.
Moore, who carries a 4.0 grade-point average at Kenai while taking the most advanced classes offered, has always been a gifted student.
The winner of the Aurora Borealis Charter School Masonic Outstanding Student in eighth grade particularly excels in math and science.
“In math, you progress to a different level, then you have a chance to progress to the next level,” Moore said. “You can’t go to another level in history.
“In math and science, you can get to a higher level, and there is an answer for everything.”
Moore has translated this same thinking into swimming. Unlike in math and science, Moore does not have natural abilities that have allowed her to rocket to the top of her class in the pool.
She did not start swimming until the seventh grade, which is a relatively late age to join the sport. Moore’s mother, Pam, always wanted Taylor to try swimming. With the family living in Nikiski, Taylor could never find the time to make it to Kenai for the Peninsula Piranhas program.
When Taylor finally started in seventh grade, it was apparent how far she had to go.
“It’s tough when you come in at an older age,” said Lee Moore, who is Taylor’s father and also the Kenai Central swim coach. “At her first race, when she got in the water, I don’t know that I’ve ever seen so much thrashing around.
“She didn’t go very fast.”
Taylor said she quickly became hooked on swimming for many of the same reasons she enjoys math and science.
“For me to go to meets and see my times dropping was encouraging,” Taylor said. “It gives you more incentive to work harder in practice.
“In swimming, you can’t count on your teammates to motivate you. You have to motivate yourself because it’s just you in the water.”
Despite all the hard work, Lee Moore said it took his daughter until sophomore year to start posting competitive times.
This came after Moore swam with the Piranhas for a month or so every year in high school after basketball season. She also starting swimming in the summer before her sophomore year.
“That’s a long time to work for little increments of improvement,” Lee Moore said.
As a junior, Moore made it to the consolation finals in the 200-yard freestyle at the Region III meet. She also made the finals in two relays.
This year, buoyed by weight lifting and a new focus on technique, Moore’s goal is to make the finals of the 100 and 200 freestyle at the region meet.
After the swim season, Moore will report to the basketball court for the Kardinals. While swimming has been a perfect fit for Moore’s personality, basketball has been more of a stretch.
“When I was younger, I wasn’t as aggressive,” Moore said. “If someone had the ball, I was like, ‘OK, you can have it.’
“I didn’t get aggressive until freshman year in high school.”
Moore said she had to get aggressive as a freshman because playing time was no longer automatic.
Lee Moore said Vern Kornstad did a lot to help his daughter develop as a basketball player and person in seventh and eighth grade on the Nikiski Middle School team. Moore played on that team because, at the time, Aurora Borealis did not have a basketball team.
As a freshman, Moore played on the C-team and junior varsity. As a sophomore and junior, Moore played junior varsity and varsity. She even earned a varsity start as a junior.
Jim Davis, who coached Moore on the junior varsity, said it is apparent that Taylor is Lee’s daughter. Lee Moore had been the Kenai girls varsity basketball coach but will not coach this year.
“She understands the game from a coach’s perspective more so than most of the players she plays with,” Davis said recently by phone from Colorado, where he now lives.
“She will always try to go on the floor and do what we worked on in practice. She also understands where everybody is supposed to be on the floor.”
Davis also saw Moore improve her aggression.
“Her dad would be the first to tell you she’s not the most physically dominating person on the floor,” Davis said. “She’s able to compensate for so much of that by always being in the right place.”
Davis also had Moore in an algebra class when she was a sophomore. While Moore said school has always come easily for her, Davis said natural ability is not the lone reason for Moore’s academic prowess.
“She’s putting in a lot more time doing things than the average student,” Davis said. “She always goes above and beyond on projects and reports. She works extra hard to make sure it’s a top-notch presentation.”
Beyond being a good student, Brad Nyquist, a math teacher who instructed Moore as a freshman and junior, said Moore is willing to help others.
“She’s very confident in what her abilities are and what she can do, but she’s very quiet about it,” Nyquist said. “She doesn’t need to be loud and boisterous. She just gets it done.”
In addition to sports and academics, Moore also has been involved in student government, National Honors Society, dance, band, choir and plays at Mount Redoubt Baptist Church. She even has learned to play a solid game of tennis while spending summers in Georgia.
“She’s had some great teachers along the way that have encouraged her to push herself,” Lee Moore said of his daughter. “She could have sat back and not gotten much better if she hadn’t been challenged.
“I appreciate the number of teachers she’s had who have made it really exciting for her to be smart.”
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