VERNON HILLS — When Carmel’s seven swimmers came into Saturday’s Vernon Hills Sectional, it marked one of only a few times that the Corsairs had all been together at the same event.
The results were not what they were hoping for, but the Corsairs are trying to build interest in the program and improve as individuals. With no traditional swim program that is supported by the school, Carmel’s team is made up of athletes who compete from two local swim clubs in the area. The girls do their own recruiting to fill out the roster.
Saturday marked the first time the Corsairs competed together as a group. During the rest of the year, they don’t practice together or attend any unified competitions.
Carmel didn’t advance anyone to state out of the sectional, but it had several respectable showings that its young swimmers said they hope to build on — either with their respective clubs or with the Corsairs next season.
In two of the day’s best results, sophomore Anna Gray placed eighth in the 50-yard freestyle in 25.47 seconds while sophomore Olivia Speer finished 10th in the 100 free in 57.17.
Last year, Gray was the first-ever swimmer from Carmel to advance to state.
“We obviously weren’t happy with the results,” sophomore Sophie Pietranek said. “But it was still great to get the opportunity to get together and represent the school.”
Although Carmel‘s swimmers are not unified during the year, Pietranek, who finished 12th in the 500 free and 14th in the 200 individual medley, said the experience was a valuable one for both team unity and growth of the program.
“We definitely learn a lot [going up against top local competition],” she said. “And it’s also fun for us because we know a lot of girls from the other schools and we can cheer for them, too.”
Sophomore Natalie Schuler, who competed in the 200 free and 500 free, said the experience provides the Corsairs with a different level of competition than what they face during the club season.
“It’s fun, even if we didn’t swim the way we wanted to,” Schuler said. “It’s so much different than competing with your club team. The energy at these meets are so different, much more intense and it’s cool to be representing your school.”
With their time representing Carmel over for the year, the team splits to return to its swim clubs. Pietranek is eager to get another shot next year.
“I definitely want to make state before I graduate,” she said.