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Los Banos kid swimmer inspires North Bay law student to pass bar exam

Mercey Springs Elementary fourth grader James Savage, 9, practices at the Pacheco High School pool before his historic open water swim to Alcatraz Island in June of 2016.
Mercey Springs Elementary fourth grader James Savage, 9, practices at the Pacheco High School pool before his historic open water swim to Alcatraz Island in June of 2016. vshanker@losbanosenterprise.com

The pressure was mounting on Scott Emerick as he was studying for the California Bar exam last year.

Eye twitches, insomnia, nausea and muscle spasms plagued the 40-year-old former manager of an appliance and plumbing wholesaler, he said, as he devoted most hours of several months preparing.

Add Emerick’s responsibilities as a husband, and as a father to newborn boy, and he was doubting his ability to pass.

But on a bad day in June last year, he came across the story of 10-year-old Los Banos powerhouse swimmer James Savage.

Emerick read about James’ historic “touch-and-go” open water swim at 9 years old to Alcatraz Island and back, and was struck by a quote.

“I was about to quit, but then I kept on going,” James said to a TV reporter after his San Francisco Bay swim.

Emerick credits that quote and James’ story for helping him pass the bar, jump-starting his future as a lawyer.

“I wrote it on a 3-by-5 index card and taped it to the wall in front of me,” Emerick said. “There it sat. I glanced at it several times a day. It was pretty profound, and I went on, studying.”

Even after Emerick failed the bar exam in November, he looked at James’ quote for motivation and started studying for the next exam.

Emerick passed and was admitted to the State Bar of California on June 1. He plans to open up an immigration, criminal, family and civil law practice with his wife in Petaluma.

James’ mother, Jillian Savage, couldn’t believe it after Emerick sent her an email explaining how her son managed to inspire a lawyer, a grown adult.

“I was honestly, really surprised,” Savage said. “Here is my 10-year-old kid just doing what he loves, and again you see all these people who he looks up to, look up to him.”

James, an incoming sixth-grader at Mercey Springs Elementary School, routinely places in the top three of school, regional and Junior Olympic swimming events.

When Savage told James about Emerick, she said, he first asked, “What do you mean I inspire people?”

James told the Enterprise he thought it was “cool” because he hasn’t heard of many adults whom are inspired by kids.

“I thought it was really nice, and hopefully I get to meet him one day,” he said. “I just really like to swim.”

Savage started an email conversation with Emerick, and asked him if she could post his Facebook comment on James’ “Team Savage” fan page.

Emerick’s post detailed how James helped him, and it included a photo of a tie clip adorned with an inscription of James’ quote, which his wife gave him after the exam.

Emerick said he’ll be sending the index card with James’ quote to Los Banos for James to sign and send back. He also wants to meet James to thank him.

“I’m going to frame the card and have it in the office for the rest of my life,” Emerick said. “I believe it’s absolutely a vital part of my story.”

Vikaas Shanker: 209-826-3831, ext. 6562

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