CLINTON — Clinton senior Rhianna Clark couldn’t hold back the tears.

She couldn’t help blaming her mother, either.

“It’s so sad,” Clark said. “It hasn’t quite hit me yet, but I did cry when they announced my name — it’s because my mom looked at me and said, ‘Don’t cry!’ I’m definitely going to miss each and every one of them. I bonded with all of them personally and it’s just going to suck without them — hopefully I can come back.”

Clark got emotional as the Clinton girls swim team’s seniors were honored during the River Queens’ meet against Burlington on Thursday.

“Lots of emotion,” Clinton senior Molly Shannon said. “Four years of just pure dedication to this program from all of us. I don’t know one of us that doesn’t love this sport. It makes it all worth it in the end — all the sweat and the tears and everything we’ve been through with this supportive team behind us — it’s just amazing.”

Clinton lost to Burlington 111-67, but the focus was on honoring a legacy built over the last six years — the amount of time the 2020 senior class has been swimming together.

“It really feels like we’ve made a family because we’ve all been together for almost six years now,” senior Bailey Klinkhammer said. “You get to know each other, you learn everything about each other and I have actual blood-related family on the team, but also the people I bonded with the past six years.

“They’ve really become my sisters.”

They’ve made some incredible memories over those six years.

“A lot of our memories came from from Burlington, our big trip that we took every year,” senior Sarah Klinkhammer said. “That was super fun. A lot of the bus rides were super fun, just bonding with each other at meets, screaming at the top of our lungs for our teammates in their races — it was super fun.”

Only one senior, Emily Frye, was absent from the night. Bailey Klinkhammer said they were thinking about Frye the whole time.

“I’m just thinking about everything I’ve been through and working toward the past four years,” Klinkhammer said. “But what’s really been on my mind today is, one of my friends, Emily Frye, who is also a senior but she couldn’t be here today — it’s just a lot of emotions.

“All of the swimmers, we’ve been together since seventh-grade swimming and not having her here — swimming tonight was really about her.”

Clinton coach Albert Hayton said it showed meet in and meet out how close the group has become.

“They’ve all been together since they were in middle school, so they’ve been around each other quite a bit,” Hayton said. “They’re all really good friends with each other, so when they talk about it being a family, to them it is a family because they’re all so close.”

Shannon won the 100-yard breaststroke (1:19.33) and placed second in the 50-yard freestyle (27.30). Junior Jayden Kissack placed second in the 200 freestyle (2:48.94). Freshman Jordyn Klinkhammer placed second in the 100 butterfly (1:19.81). Freshman Claire Unke placed second in the 100 freestyle (1:11.63).

Clark said moments after the meet ended, it still didn’t feel real.

“Just thinking about how this is our last time swimming against another team in this pool, just — it’s mind-blowing,” Clark said. “It hasn’t quite hit me, but it will probably hit me tomorrow.”