It’s been a decade since the Clinton High School girls’ swim team was able to send anyone to the state meet, and a couple of relays are trying to change that .
The quartet of Molly Shannon, Anna Hilgendorf, Kaeden Schutte and Olivia Schroeder have been watching the times across the state all season. At their own home meet at River King & Queen Natatorium, they swam a personal best and began to realize they had a shot.
“We were never sure we had a chance,” Schutte said. “Now looking back and all the hard work, it’s crazy to think we have a chance of going.”
Their 200 Freestyle relay is currently sitting just inside the top 32 in the state, meaning if they swim some of their best at regionals on Saturday they could have a chance at qualifying.
“We’ve all put in the hard work, because we all want to be there,” Schutte said. “They’re all reasonable to get. It’s crazy to see all the hard work we’ve put in over the season – it’s actually helping us.”
They four swim two other relays together too, both also within qualifying range for them, just not as close at the 200 Freestyle.
For Shannon, a team captain, it’s been on her mind. She went to watch the state swim meet as a freshman and has been hoping to experience it for herself.
“I got to see everything that goes on and how all the hard work pays off,” Shannon said. “Talking to some of the girls there, it was just so rewarding for them. Seeing all the energy that fills the room, it’s breath taking actually.”
Because the four have been swimming together for so long, they’ve gotten close as teammates and as friends. They’ve found something else to draw them together this year – their faith.
While it seems out of place as a large, public school, the swim girls don’t feel that much at all. It wasn’t always within their chemistry, though.
“I wasn’t even into it until Molly got me into it,” Schutte said. “I was going through some hard times and Molly [Shannon] helped me to have a positive attitude whenever I came to swimming. I got my anger out, my sadness.”
That positive energy that it brings to them is something they’ve really honed in on, especially in their quest for state. Before nearly every race, the four join hands right by the starting blocks and push everything else out of their minds to pray together as a relay team.
“Personally, to get more together, we pray together,” Shannon said. “We talk about how thankful we are for our athleticism, thankful to be swimming the event. It brings us more together as individuals and makes it easier honestly.”
Shannon is a big member of the Clinton chapter of the Fellowship for Christian Athletes (FCA). Because of their presence on campus, prayer is actually something you can find woven within multiple River King & Queen sporting events.
“The prayer atmosphere kind of brings everyone together,” Shannon said. “A lot of sports here at Clinton have praying.”
The extra bond helps in a sport like swimming. In a relay, everything has to go right to achieve the optimal performance, especially when you’re swimming a relay where each leg swims just one lap in the pool. Four starts have to be perfect, turns have to be sharp, and the transition between swimmers has to be smooth. Having chemistry within the relay helps that.
Plus, there is something to fall back on if things don’t necessarily go right.
“That probably brings us the most together,” Schutte said. “We sit there and think about how it’s just one race and we can do this. And if we don’t win, we still have each other afterwards.”
Creating that positivity within swimming has also helped them keep their goals in mind.
“I think that you can think about the hard work and time you’ve put into God, it helps show that it is achievable and it keeps things positive,” Shannon said. “Without that positive prayer mindset, the dream isn’t there.”
It may not be normal throughout all the MAC schools or for every person participating in sports, but it’s something that’s important at least to these Clinton swimmers.
They’ve got a lot of determination and grit, that’s for sure. Before they qualify for state or even swim a race at regionals on Saturday in Clinton, they’ll be praying together on the pool deck before diving in.
“There’s such a stigma around religion in sports or schools, especially public schools,” Shannon said. “I think it takes a lot of guts to be able to stand in front of the blocks, standing in a circle and pray and hold hands and talk about these things. I think we’ve shown other teams that it’s not just at home or church, but it’s in sports and it can help build your mentality.”