Kelly McNamara hoping to take Addison Trail to uncharted waters

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Willowbrook senior Kelly McNamara doesn’t train in first-rate facilities like most elite swimmers do.

She competes for a team that is largely unknown even at her own school.

But that hasn’t stopped her from becoming one of the best swimmers in the state, one who is poised to make history at November’s IHSA state meet. She is the top returning finisher in the 100-yard butterfly.

McNamara swims for Addison Trail, a co-op program that also includes swimmers from Willowbrook. Neither school has a pool, so the team trains at an Addison Park District fitness center in a pool that has five lanes and only one legal starting block. The girls must share the pool with members of the public and a hot tub.

McNamara and the other girls from Willowbrook take a bus to Addison Trail to pick up their teammates and then to the fitness center. They make the reverse journey after practice.

“I get home at like 7:15 every night,” McNamara said. “We’re kind of used to it now.”

Despite those obstacles, Addison Trail has won the West Suburban Conference Gold Division championship the past two years and produced a star in McNamara, a two-time state medalist in the butterfly. She finished second last year, setting school and personal-records of 54.71 in the prelims. That was the 12th fastest time in state meet history.

“We’re not swimming in a position of New Trier or Evanston,” Addison Trail coach Paul Anderson said. “Our facilities are a little lackluster, so it’s really a testament to the kids and her hard work. If you’re willing to work, you can produce even if your conditions aren’t ideal.”

McNamara has come a long way in short period of time. She didn’t qualify for state as a freshman but is now a Division I recruit who is considering Iowa, Kentucky and Minnesota.

“I didn’t start swimming every single day until high school,” McNamara said. “Sophomore year I got sixth and then after that it was like, ‘I could actually like do this.’”

McNamara is a naturally talented athlete who ran track her first two years of high school. Tall and strong, she powers through the water with efficiency and grace.

“She’s long, she’s really powerful and she just kind of grabs water and flies, no pun intended,” Anderson said. “She’s grown into her body a little bit and just really matured. Her push is so strong that her [stroke] looks beautiful in the water, so I think she’s really learned to swim it over the past couple years.”

The butterfly is generally considered the toughest stroke to master, but McNamara enjoys the challenge.

“It takes a lot of endurance, but when I was little I was always good at it, so I kept doing it,” McNamara said. “I kind of like that it’s the hardest one and not many people can do it.”

No swimmer from Addison Trail or Willowbrook has ever won a state title, but McNamara is in position to do so. She already has the fastest time in the state this year.

“It would be really cool,” McNamara said. “Winning isn’t everything, obviously, it’s more about the time. But it’s senior year; you want to have a good experience. I would love to win.”

If she does, swimming could get a higher profile at Willowbrook.

“Some people don’t know we have a swim team,” McNamara said. “It will come on the announcements and people will be like, ‘wait, we have a swim team?’ So people would probably give it more recognition.”

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