There are two things to know about Carmel’s female swimmers, who are on the verge of establishing the greatest dynasty in the history of high school sports.
One is that the state meet is not the be-all and end-all for some of them. Claire Adams, Veronica Burchill, Emma Nordin and Kelly Pash are expected to compete in June’s U.S. Olympic Trials at Omaha, Neb.
Carmel coach Chris Plumb has repeatedly said the state meet is a step along the way to other goals. Indeed, Carmel has set its lineup not to win state but to be recognized as national champion for the seventh time in eight years.
Plumb, a former Indiana University swimmer, borrowed from a former IU basketball coach. As the Greyhounds taper (i.e. rest) for the state meet, it should be a lark compared to twice-a-day practices and swimming up to 30 miles in a training week.
“The old Bobby Knight idea. One is so hard, they look forward to the game,” Plumb said.
The other thing to know is Carmel swimmers do not perceive themselves to be superwomen. Winning a record 30th successive state championship would be a super achievement … but that’s all.
“We just try to keep it normal,” said Adams, a senior who has a chance to qualify for the Rio Olympics as a 17-year-old. “Because there’s nothing abnormal about us. We’re still high school girls, just kind of chasing our dreams.”
The state meet begins at 6 p.m. today with preliminaries at the Natatorium at IUPUI. Diving starts at 9 a.m. Saturday, followed by swim finals at 1 p.m.
Carmel last year tied the national record of 29 consecutive state championships held by Punahou School, a Honolulu prep school that won in Hawaii boys swimming from 1958-86. It is the alma mater of President Barack Obama.
“The great thing is, it’s really a celebration of swimming,” Plumb said. “It’s a celebration of women in sports. They understand there’s a bigger picture behind what they’re doing. Thirty years ago, no one probably thought girls could break a record, especially a rich swim state like Indiana.
“So I think they grasp that. Sometimes it scares them a little bit. And other times, it’s very exciting. They’ve done this before. They’re excited to do it again.”
The 2015 Greyhounds were arguably the greatest team ever assembled in girls swimming. They broke national records in all three relays, won nine of 11 races, set 13 state records, featured four national champions, scored a record 445 points and won by a record 266.
The principals return except for Amy Bilquist, now a Cal freshman and another Olympic candidate. As hard as it would be to surpass last year, the Greyhounds scored 586 points in the Noblesville Sectional, or 16 more than in 2015.
“We’ve definitely got our work cut out for us,” Plumb said. “That was a great team a year ago. We think we’ve got really great athletes. They put in a lot of work. But it comes down to executing on Friday and Saturday.”
Adams is going for an unprecedented four-year sweep of the 100-yard backstroke, in which she might challenge the national high school record of 51.43. (Her state record is 51.99.) After three state titles in the 200 freestyle, she is dropping down to the 100 free, leaving the 200 to Pash, a freshman, and Nordin.
The Indiana record for career girls swim titles, including relays, is 14 by Carmel’s Emily Ayers from 1991-95. If Adams and Burchill each win four, they will finish with 16 and 15, respectively.
One of the top races could be the 100 butterfly, pitting Burchill against Crown Point junior Hannah Kukurugya, a world junior bronze medalist. Kukurugya had the fastest time in sectionals, 54.02, to Burchill’s 54.16. The public school record is 51.70, compared to Burchill’s state record of 52.26.
In reaching this milestone, Carmel has well-documented advantages over its Indiana rivals.
Carmel was the first school to win 100 Indiana championships over all sports. The city is in affluent Hamilton County, and the high school enrollment of 4,830 is largest in the state. It has a 23-lane natatorium and a relationship with Carmel Swim Club, also coached by Plumb.
On the other hand, there can be a burden associated with being on a team trying to keep “The Streak” going.
“It’s an honor that you get to swim for this team and get to represent the people who came before you and carry on the legacy,” Adams said. “There’s something that’s comforting about that, to know that there’s so many other people behind you and your purpose. All the girls around you are thinking the same thing.”
Call IndyStar reporter David Woods at (317) 444-6195. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidWoods007.
All-time high school streaks
Nation’s longest streaks of consecutive state championships:
29: Carmel (Ind.), girls swimming, 1986-2015
29: Honolulu Punahou, boys swimming, 1958-86
28: Jacksonville (Fla.) Bolles School, boys swimming, 1988-2015
27: Pickford (Mich.), boys track and field, 1952-78
27: Louisville (Ky.) St. Xavier, boys swimming, 1989-2015
27: Bennington (Vt.) Mount Anthony, wrestling, 1989-2015
26: Woonsocket (R.I.) Mt. St. Charles Academy, hockey, 1978-2003
26: Kearns Canyon (Ariz.) Hopi, boys cross-country, 1990-2015