One might reasonably expect this sort of sustained supremacy from a high school swimming team in Honolulu, a lush, green speck in the vast blue reaches of the Pacific Ocean, but not from Carmel High School, whose 23-lane natatorium is an oasis in the Indiana cornfields.
No matter. These girls can swim. Carmel splashed to its 28th consecutive Indiana high school swimming championship Saturday amid ear-splitting shrieks in the echo chamber that is the Natatorium at IUPUI. The Greyhounds scored 399 points to leave second-place Crown Point (209) and the rest of the field bobbing in their wake.
Carmel now stands a single title shy of the national high school all-sports record owned by the boys of Punahou High School in Honolulu (Barack Obama’s alma mater), 1958-86.
Carmel started with a splash, winning the first two events, and ended with one.
“Our motto is ‘FTT: For The Team,’ ” Greyhounds coach Chris Plumb said moments before his girls heaved him into the pool. “We qualified 27 swimmers and one diver. All 28 scored and it was our 28th straight championship.
“It think it’s destiny, don’t you?”
Who’s to argue? The championship was Plumb’s ninth as coach. That tied him with Tony Young (1992-2000) for the most in program history.
Fishers took third with 203 points, followed by Penn with 166 and Zionsville with 137.
Nine state records were set Saturday, equaling the state finals record total of 1978. Carmel set six of them, and in all six cases, the records the Greyhounds broke were their own.
Junior Amy Bilquist and sensational sophomore Claire Adams had a hand in four apiece.
Bilquist’s included the 100-yard freestyle (48.93) and legs in the 200-medley (1:40.83) and 200-free (1:31.37) relays. She also touched first in the 50 freestyle record (22.17), whose record she broke during Friday evening preliminaries with a 22.15 clocking.
Bilquist is a transfer from Verrado High School in Buckeye, Ariz., whose relocation was the result of her father’s job change. Her school choice was a slam dunk, pool variety.
“I could have gone to a couple of schools, but I saw Carmel’s great legacy and I knew I wanted to go here,” she beamed. “It’s a home run. It’s really a world- class program here.”
Carmel stands alone in girls high school swimming, and the Carmel Swim Club, which both feeds the high school and nurtures its swimmers, is one of the top clubs in the country.
That the Greyhounds do it again and again, year after year, is no accident. Excellence is not only a Carmel tradition. It’s a responsibility.
“It’s not just our team but all the past 27 years of girls who have done it behind us,” said Adams, who set records in the 200 free (1:46.95) and the 100 backstroke (52.97) and swam a leg on the 200- and 400- free relays.
“We do it for them.”
Carmel’s relay teams were not only dominant. They were historic.
The 200 medley relay team — Bilquist complemented by Hanna House, Alex Clarke and Veronica Burchill — not only set a state record but a national mark, according to Swimming World Magazine.
Bilquist, Adams, House and Burchill set a national public school record in the 200 free relay and with the crowd of perhaps 1,500 all up and screaming, Burchill, Katie Lemen, Kendall Smith and Adams set another public school standard in the closing 400 freestyle relay.
Carmel’s seven championships pushed the school’s girls swim total to 119. Ben Davis and Columbus North are next on the list with 19. That kind of dominance can engender jealousy, or admiration.
“(Carmel has) raised the level of swimming in Indiana,” said Zionsville’s Alex Cleveland, the 2014 Mental Attitude Award winner. “And it’s really nice having that competition pushing everybody else to the next level of their game.”
Cleveland’s sincerity was above suspicion. She spoke while still dripping from the 50 freestyle. She finished second to Bilquist in that event and in the 100 freestyle.
Bryon Angerman, coach of runner-up Crown Point, said more of the same.
“For us to be in the same pool as a team like Carmel is a privilege because it drives us to swim faster, and in some respects, we drive them, too,” said Angerman, who added that he tries to emulate Carmel’s coaching and developmental programs in his own.
Carmel has its stars, to be sure, but it’s the team’s pre-emptive depth that devastates, and it had already asserted itself at the diving break. The Greyhounds placed two swimmers in each of the first three individual events and led Crown Point 152-84 through four of the meet’s 11 swims.
The Greyhounds finished 1-3-4 in the 100 backstroke with House and Sammie Burchill chasing Adams to pool’s edge.
That sense of responsibility to Carmel swimmers who have gone before isn’t borne by the front-runners alone. Claudia Sherman was the Greyhounds’ lone representative in the grueling 500 freestyle. She finished eighth. She scored. She put in her time, too.
Up at 4:45 a.m., out the door at 5:10 and in the pool at 5:40 every school day. Summers are easy. Swimmers sleep till 6.
“It’s a little crazy, it takes a lot of time but it’s a lot of fun,” said Sherman’s mother, Christine, who sat in Carmel’s large, loud cheering section. “If the kids are willing to put in the work and work as hard as they do, we’re happy to support them any way we can.”
Standing alongside Christine was her younger daughter. Paige, 9, is a third-grader who was a Carmel Swim Club “Swimmer of the Month” in November. Paige had come to the Natatorium straight from practice. She bobbed her head in assent at the suggestion that some day it will be her turn in the big pool.
So it goes at Carmel, where the state meet is only a milestone, if a big one, on the road to junior national and national meets, and quite likely another mythical national championship.
Carmel has won seven of the latter, in the public school category. The Greyhounds are the defending champions, and after what happened Saturday, you have to love their chances of repeating.
The Greyhounds hold the hammer.
For the record
Carmel’s Greyhounds weren’t the only ones in record-setting mode.
Cardinal Ritter’s Sarah Bacon defended her 1-meter diving title with a standard-setting 546.45 points.
Penn’s Bethany Galat shaved almost a half-second off the 100-yard breaststroke record with a 59.66 and also won the 200 individual medley.
And Crown Point’s Aly Tetzloff surged through the 100 butterfly in 52.70, 0.71 seconds better than the old time.