In the wee hours of the morning, when most of the world is still asleep, high-school girls from schools all over the Region were hitting the pool, practicing their speed, agility, and technique to compete in Saturday's Sectional Championship Swimming Meet at Lake Central High School. Their extensive training, beginning months ago and including early morning practice, after-school drills, and training over winter break, prepared them for the few minutes at sectionals when they put their skills to the test to compete in their events.
As the stands filled with family, friends, and fans of the teams, the girls competing prepared for tough competition, focusing their extensive training into their races as they hoped to take home first place.
Korrin Skinner, a junior at Lowell High School, competed in the 100-yard breaststroke, hoping that her hard work this season was enough to bring her to the top of the competition.
“We’ve been training for six months,” Skinner said. “We started in August, and we did a lot of conditioning like running and weight training. The whole month of November, we had morning and afternoon practices six days a week, with meets here and there.”
For Skinner, qualifying for and competing at sectionals is an indescribable feeling.
“We’re really excited. We did it all as a team,” Skinner said.
Leah John, a senior at Munster High School, who competed in the 100-yard fly and the 100-yard breaststroke, reflected on the long journey of training that led her team to sectionals.
“We worked really hard all season long,” John said. “We put in the work during morning practices and evening practices. During winter training is when we really hit our stride. We do five hours of practice each day over break, and then we taper well. Our coach trains us well to get to where we need to be.”
Balancing the demands of high school with the challenging schedule of swimming is no easy feat. John offers her advice on how to thrive in both swimming and in academics to her younger teammates.
“Early in the season, we told our new girls to make sure that you get ahead of your week on the weekends and to do your homework that you know you’re going to have to do,” John said. “When we have meets, we study on the bus together, and during the meets, we do our homework when we have some spare time. Everyone is really good with time management. It’s a skill you have to have.”
Throughout the match, fans rose to their feet to cheer on their favorite swimmers and to commend the girls on their outstanding times.
In a true display of sportsmanship, Adisyn Sawaska, a sophomore at Lake Central High School, and Anabel Stein, a senior at Lowell High School, set aside their competitive qualities when both girls finished the 50-yard freestyle with the same time.
The two long-time friends found themselves side-by-side during the 50-yard freestyle, finding motivation in each other to perform their best.
“She was automatically pushing me to do my best, because I know how good of a swimmer she is,” Stein said of Sawaska. “Seeing her next to me made me push myself. ‘Just keep on her. Keep going,’ I told myself.”
Unable to distinguish who took the fifth-place spot and who came in sixth, the girls decided to cut both ribbons in half, creating one-of-a-kind ribbons and a memory that will last a lifetime.
“I think it shows our good sportsmanship,” Sawaska said. “Two teams can come together. We don’t have to be enemies. It shows since we tied, we both earned both spots.”
Like many of the teams attending, Lake Central High School Girls’ Swim Team faced many tough hours of training and preparing for sectionals.
“Lake Central has practice from 5:00 to 6:30 in the morning every day except for Wednesdays,” Stein said. “We practice after school from 2:30 to 5:00. If you mess up one thing, your entire race is ruined. You have to keep practicing the turns, keep practicing your starts, and move your arms as fast as you can. You can’t even think. When you hear ‘take your mark,’ you just have to go. You just have to move as fast as you can.”
“Our biggest mental barrier this year was our winter break,” Stein said. “We had practices three times a day. We would swim for two hours, and then we would have a weight-lifting program we would go to. We would get an hour or two to go home and take a nap, and then we were back in the pool for the night.”
Fans brought flags, banners, and signs to cheer for their loved ones competing on Saturday morning. Holden Raffin cheered for his friends and classmates at Munster High School from the stands. Alongside his friends, Raffin showed his school spirit by dressing in matching Hawaiian shirts with colorful leis.
“We’re dressed up in our Hawaiian theme because it’s a fun thing to do to support the girls and to get them hyped up for the meet,” Raffin said.
Raffin, a member of the Munster High Schools Boys’ Swim Team, shows his support for the girls swimming team while getting excited for his own team’s upcoming meet.
“I’m getting excited for sectionals myself, just sitting up in the crowd. I want to get the suit on and swim,” Raffin said.
Head Swim Coach of Griffith High School, Barbara Bolda, was excited to see her girls perform at sectionals. Following an amazing performance at the sectional preliminaries the day before, Bolda couldn’t wait to see how the girls on the team were going to bring their enthusiasm, dedication, and training to the sectional meet.
At the sectional prelims, the record for the fastest 100-yard breaststroke was broken. The previous record, held by Stapleton in 1997, was broken by Emma Keene, a freshman swimmer for Griffith High School.
“It’s awesome,” Coach Bolda said. “She’s been trying to do it all year. She was really close at conference, and then she just nailed her turns and brought it home.”
Each and every swimmer showed their dedication to the sport and outstanding sportsmanship at the meet held at Lake Central High School. It was great to see so many outstanding athletes advance to the State Championship Meet.
To learn more about how each school performed, or more information regarding the upcoming meet, visit ihsaa.org