CARMEL — Cheers, horns and noise clappers rang through the Carmel Arts & Design District on Saturday morning, as three firetrucks carried the high school sports team with the most consecutive state titles in the nation’s history.
The Carmel High School girls’ swim team had won its 30th straight state championship a week earlier at the Natatorium at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis by beating the previous record set by the Punahou High School boys’ swim team from Honolulu. More than 100 people cheered on the Carmel team members Saturday, as they were honored with the parade and a day of recognition.
This state title was special in another way, team members said, because their record bested the earlier one by a boys team, making it an achievement for female athletes everywhere.
“I just think it’s a very big step for women,” said Morgan Grout, 16. “It was about more than just us.”
The city printed the slogan “Carmel 30 Year Dynasty” in gold lettering on 1,000 blue T-shirts, which were given away for free.
Cheerleaders from the high school chanted with the team as the Carmel Fire Department engines carried them a few blocks down West Main Street to the steps of the Monon Greenway for a short ceremony.
Ron Carter, a longtime Carmel city councilman, read a proclamation to the crowd to recognize Feb. 20 as “Carmel Girls Swimming Dynasty Day.”
“These girls have done it the right way,” Carter said. “With hard work.”
Chris Plumb, the Carmel girls’ swim coach, said the swimmers were able to maintain momentum throughout the season because they never wanted to lose. Though it’s the team’s 30th state title, it was only the seniors’ third championship, he said.
“They’re hungry, they want it,” he said. “They want to lead that way and they’ve seen the people who have done it before.”
Dan McFeely, a Carmel spokesman, said the city hopes to bring previous Carmel girls’ swim champions back to the city later this year. He said Carmel wants to continue celebrating the team’s historic accomplishment.
Caroline Schultz, 17, said the validation from the crowd was even more rewarding because of Indiana’s love for basketball. She said many Hoosiers don’t understand the sport of swimming, and she didn’t expect the team’s accomplishment to be celebrated in such a big way.
“It’s so exciting, it’s like such an honor,” Schultz said. “I never would even think this would happen, so it’s just amazing that people recognize us for what we’ve done.”
Parents took dozens of photos and videos with mobile phones as their daughters were honored by the city.
Sara Draper said it’s been a powerful experience for her daughter, a freshman on the team.
“These girls work so hard and put so many hours in,” Draper said. “For people to come out and recognize that they are such hard workers it is really validating to them.”
Her husband, Bob Draper, agreed. He said their daughter, Abby Draper, is happiest when she’s swimming with her teammates.
“She feels better when she swims,” Bob said. “Her school day is better after morning practice. She comes out of the locker room with a smile on her face.”
Even while they were enjoying their own achievement, the girls swim team members were thinking of their peers: They kept their celebration short to head to the Carmel High School Natatorium to cheer on the boys swim team competing Saturday in the sectional finals.
“We’re grateful for today,” Plumb said. “These girls are better people than they are swimmers.”
Call IndyStar reporter Olivia Lewis at (317) 444-6126. Follow her on Twitter: @TheWrittenPeace.