Back(stroke) in the Day
What was the swimming program like in the school when you attended CHS?
Swimming on the team was a lot of fun. While most all of us swam year round on the club team, the high school team was not a coed experience as it is now. When I swam, girls’ swimming was a fall sport; boys’ swimming was a winter sport. Swimming and Diving have seemingly become two separate teams now. When I swam, the diver’s practiced at the same time as the swimmers. We all shared a 25 yard, six lane pool. We left a center lane line out to accommodate the divers. The diver’s swam the warm up with us. They would throw dives whenever they could find an open spot in the water. Our coach always swam a ‘diver relay’ at meets. We probably had roughly 30 girls on our team. The team now has over 100 girls.
We practiced before and after school and on Saturday mornings. We called the pool we swam in the ‘mole hole.’ Nothing like the facility we have now. One year, the ‘mole hole’ was condemned by the board of health and we had to find other pools to practice in.
Hiring Ray Lawrence in the late 1970s was huge. Prior to Ray coming to Carmel, all of our coaches had been lay coaches. We had poor access to both the school and the pool as none of the lay coaches were given keys to the facility. If the pool doors were locked and we couldn’t find a custodian on a Saturday morning, we couldn’t practice. Ray was not only our swim coach, but he was also hired as an English teacher at CHS. As a member of the faculty, Ray had keys and we had much better facility access and a better connection with the school.
What made you decide to join the team?
I had started swimming competitively when I was 11. It was a natural progression to move onto the high school team. Our club coaches also coached the high school team.
How was it viewed in the school?
I don’t think many kids followed the swim team. That changed a bit after we won the state meet.
What event did you swim?
I swam the 100 breaststroke.
What was it like to be a member of the 1st champion team?
Very exciting. It still brings a tear to my eye when I think about it. Especially when you think about how long ago it was and that Carmel has been such a power house ever since. The state meet was swum at the Ball State University Natatorium in 1981-82. The IUPUI Natatorium did not open until 1984-ish. After we won the state meet, we went straight to the North Central vs. Carmel football game. The football team was also playing for a state championship. We arrived at halftime and the announcer made an announcement that we had just won the state meet. We felt pretty great about that and we received a lot of congratulations from students in the stands. The football team defeated North Central and CHS picked up a second state championship that day. Awesome!
Does it feel like yesterday?
Not really. It was a lot of fun to have my two older girls go through the program and it brought back a lot of memories but the program has definitely changed.
What was it like in school, after your victory?
I believe CHS won five or six state championships the fall of 1981. It was great to be a Greyhound. On a Monday following a state championship win, Mr. Graham (our principal) would call for a pep session. The student body would gather in the gymnasium to celebrate the team and our school. There was a lot of school spirit. After the pep session, Mr. Graham would dismiss the student body for the rest of the day. We would get the rest of the day off. Loved that!
What do you think it meant for the school as well as the program?
I think the success of both the club and the high school programs were significant in getting the beautiful facility we currently have. The Carmel Natatorium is a community facility and provides residents with swim lesson and lap swimming opportunities. Swimming is definitely supported in Carmel.
What do you think has kept Carmel on top?
Carmel Swim Club is a fantastic feeder program to the high school team. Most of the high school coaches also coach at the club level. This consistency of coaching and the smooth transition from the club season to the high school season definitely contribute to the success of both programs. Swimmers have access to an outstanding facility and many opportunities to compete at a very high level.
How long do you see this streak can continue?
I don’t really see an end at this point but the success and the streak should not be taken for granted. The commitment from all involved; swimmers, parents and coaches is immense. There are certainly other programs working very hard with a focus on the future. The success of the Carmel swim program is well reported. Families definitely come to Carmel to allow their children/swimmers to benefit from the program.
Do you hold your breath every year hoping the streak continues?
At this point, Carmel continues to win the girls’ state meet by a pretty staggering number of points. There are lots of outstanding swimmers from all around the state and there are many good teams. The depth and the sheer number of outstanding swimmers at Carmel does not seem to be matched anyplace else in the state at this time. There are many good programs gaining strength and numbers. That will probably, eventually, make the state meet a closer competition.
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