The music starts. The pressure mounts.
Your workout depends on whether you know the name of the song playing over the loudspeaker, and you have no idea what’s coming next.
“The songs were from Syd’s [the coach’s] running playlist,” said freshman Caitlin Clark. “She would play the first 30 seconds of a song, and if we got the name of the song and the artist, we would get to do an easy kick. If we got the name of the song, we would do half easy, half hard. If we got everything wrong, we would do a hard kick.”
Lindblom at the Helm
This “song trivia practice” is just one memorable example of what the University High School swim team has been up to so far this season. Under the leadership of new head coach Sydnee “Syd” Lindblom, a former NCAA All-American swimmer and current 8th grade teacher at The Orchard School, practices have combined fun with intensity.
“Syd is doing a really great job,” said senior Brody Davison. “Everyone really loves her. So far she’s been an awesome coach and an awesome teacher, but at the same time, she’s kicking our butts in practice. There are a lot of swimmers who are already approaching their personal best times from the end of last season. That’s crazy considering we’re in the hardest part of the season right now.”
Boys Team Doubles in Size
With 10 swimmers on the roster, University High School’s boys swim team has doubled in size over last year. The five returning swimmers – seniors Brody Davison, Max Ammerman, and Ian Weiker, junior Kevin Shen, and sophomore Cole Reinholt – bring experience and talent. Ammerman and Weiker have been with the team since its first season in 2014. And between them, Davison and Reinholt hold school records in seven of the eight individual swimming events.
Additions to the boys roster are seniors Zach Daniels and Charles Earle, junior Agastya Das, sophomore Christian Moore, and freshman Cordell Wilson. Lindblom has been impressed by the new talent so far.
“Charles Earle is blowing us away,” said Lindblom. “He is definitely a beginning swimmer, but in just two short weeks, he has really started to pick things up. His improvement in a short amount of time has been fun to see.”
She added, “Cordell Wilson had never had a swim lesson in his life, but within the first four days of practice, he learned how to do a flip turn, he learned how to swim freestyle and backstroke, and he was swimming 25s under water without breathing. I don’t think he realized how crazy that was; he just kind of did it. That was really exciting to see.”
Freshmen Take Over Girls Team
Everyone is new on the University High School girls swim team. The team is made up of six freshmen – Christine Chen, Caitlin Clark, Ella Eskenazi, Regan Hooker, Macy Paton, and Isabela Wise. Hooker is the most seasoned of the girls, having competed with the Zionsville Swim Club. Clark, Paton, and Eskenazi all have some experience as well and are already making big contributions to the team.
With no upperclassmen on the girls team, Lindblom recognized that the first two weeks of girls-only practice (the first day of practice for each sport is set by the IHSAA, and boys swimming started two weeks after girls swimming this year) would be crucial for team bonding and expectation setting.
“I’m really thankful for the girls I have because in the first two weeks, it was just the six of them and me hanging out on a daily basis,” said Lindblom. “They got to learn my expectations first, and even though they are freshmen, they got to be leaders with the boys because they already understood my terminology and expectations.”
The girls agree. “We were able to have more team bonding because we started earlier than the boys,” said freshman Ella Eskenazi. “I think we’ve gotten pretty close.”
Early Success at Elwood
Now in its third season, the University High School swim team looks to harness its talent and build on the success from the first two seasons. With two meets behind them, this task seems well underway.
The team’s first meet of the season — on Wednesday, Nov. 30 — was historic in many ways. First, it was the team’s first ever dual meet, and it was a meet against comparably sized Elwood High School. Second, it gave the boys team their first win in team history.
“To me, Elwood is probably going to be one of the most important meets of the season,” said Davison, a few days before the meet. “Our success at Elwood will have a big impact on the confidence of our swimmers, and it will also set a precedent for how awesome we can be even after we’re dead tired [from a tough stretch of practices].”
The boys team defeated Elwood 96-55 that day. Highlights from the win include:
- The IM relay team of Earle, Reinholt, Davison, and Ammerman kicked off the meet with a first-place finish.
- Reinholt and Davison went on to win two more events each — the 200 yd. IM and 100 yd. breaststroke for Reinholt, and the 100 yd. butterfly and 500 yd. freestyle for Davison.
- Ammerman teamed up with Kevin Shen, Agastya Das, and Cordell Wilson to win the 200 yd. freestyle relay later in the meet.
- Ian Weiker posted personal records in the 100 yd. freestyle (1:32.25) and the 100 yd. backstroke (1:50.08).
While the girls team was outnumbered almost 4-to-1 at Elwood and lost the first meet, the girls brought home their first victory from a very close meet at Muncie Burris on Saturday. Highlights from the girls’ win include:
- The 200 yd. IM relay team of Paton, Clark, Hooker, and Eskenazi kicked off the meet with a close win and a new school record of 2:29.07.
- Eskenazi and Clark came in first and second, respectively, in the 200 yd. freestyle.
- Wise won the 100 yd. freestyle with a time of 1:13.89 and the 50 yd. freestyle with a time of 33.68 (her personal record in the event).
- Chen dropped 13 seconds from her personal record in the 100 yd. freestyle and finished fourth with a time of 1:48.43.
- Eskenazi won the 500 yd. freestyle with a new personal record time of 7:17.00.
- Chen, Wise, Hooker, and Eskenazi won the 200 yd. freestyle relay.
- Hooker brought home the final victory of the day with a win in the 100 yd. breaststroke.
These early successes have set the Trailblazers up for a strong regular season and postseason. Last year, two University High School swimmers placed in the sectional, and they hope to have even more this year. Sophomore Cole Reinholt advanced to the sectional final in the 100 yd. breaststroke (an event in which he holds the school record). And senior Brody Davison placed second in the sectional for the 500 yd. freestyle (4:59.37). A sectional win this year would advance Davison to the state meet and make him the first University swimmer to compete in state.
Before they start thinking about sectionals, though, the team will focus on dual meets and their personal records.
“We definitely want to try to win at least one meet,” said senior Max Ammerman, a goal which was accomplished last week. “The fact that we have plenty of dual meets this year means that would be very much possible. And we just constantly want to improve. We’re hoping to get PRs (personal records) regularly.”
According to the swimmers, they have all the elements necessary to make that happen.
“There’s not a single thing that I love the most about University High School swimming, but there’s a lot of things that add up to the experience,” said Davison. “You’ve got the culture. You’ve got two amazing coaches. And you’ve got awesome, motivated kids who want to be there to improve – not necessarily to be the fastest person in the world or to sell their soul to the sport – but to be the best that they can be. That’s a big deal.”
University High School’s next swim meet is Thursday, Dec. 8 at Arsenal Tech High School. The meet is against Tech, Broad Ripple, Covenant Christian, and Scecina. Come out and support the swim team at one of their meets this season!