Time drops, tapering, flip turns, heats, and kicks may not mean something outside of swimming circles, but on the pool deck at Sectional preliminaries, you will hear all those phrases ring throughout. This year at Chesterton High School, teams including North Judson, Michigan City, La Porte, Portage, Valparaiso, Wheeler, Chesterton, Hobart, Calumet, Merrillville, and Knox came together on Friday night for prelims that determine who will be qualifying to the finals on Saturday.
The atmosphere was amped, the rivalries at their peak, and the girls were all ready to put a season-long drive to improve their strokes into performance across the individual events and team relays. Teams work their swimmers all year long to build endurance through their morning and evening practices, and dryland training outside of the pool. Then they taper towards the end of the season to preserve their energy for their best performances of the year. The weather threw a curve ball to each of the teams this year. With school closing, the prelims happened on Friday with a quick turnaround to the finals on Saturday, rather than the usual Thursday/Saturday spread.
Once the anthem was sung, the girls were off the blocks on their way to an exciting night for what one swim official noted to be one of the finest traditions in high school sports—the intense competition built on respect that brings out the best in young ladies and men, as well as parents and coaches.
“The girls are doing really great today, dropping a lot of time, and this atmosphere really helps drive them. The team started off small a couple of years ago, and every year we just keep collecting more girls. That is definitely helping build that excitement.”
Valparaiso head varsity coach Pete Sattler has been coaching for years and continues to bring the best from his girls in performance and character.
“We are exactly where we need to be right now tonight, heading into tomorrow. We just need to get as many as we can through. It was a bit of a hectic week with the weather, but they did well and they were very excited coming into tonight.”
With long meets, and practices that are often starting at 5:30 a.m., and then beginning again for a few hours after school, swim parents tend to travel as a family as much as the team does. The season builds to these moments, and you could see team spirit in colors throughout the stands. Deb Shepherd, the mother of Valparaiso swimmer HannahShepherd remarked, “Sectionals are the most exciting time of the year and for us this is our third year as our daughter is a junior. They have built up a crazy amount of energy with the tapering over the last week, and tonight and tomorrow they get to expend all of that and we are looking forward to see some great results.
Whether the season ends tonight, wraps up Saturday at the finals, or continues on for the best of the bunch downstate, these girls showed what high school sports is all about through their dedication, sportsmanship, and team spirit.