When Anne Younger started swimming for CA as a freshman four years ago, the entire Swim Team could fit in a microbus. In 2017-18, just the freshman swimmers and divers would fill that same small bus. This year, with 32 girls, CA has the largest Swim Team in the school’s history, thanks in large part to 14 freshmen who signed up.
“The freshmen bring so much energy to the team,” says Younger. “When you are swimming, it’s so nice to see people cheering you at the end of the lane!”
“We have a group of girls who wanted to try something different and found a great team atmosphere in an individualized sport,” says Assistant Coach Paul Augustus. “They encourage each other and bring out the best in each other.”
Head Coach Beckie Mutz believes the team has built a reputation for being “fun” partly due to CA’s Class of 2017 swimmers who recruited underclassmen to join the team. She also praises the individualized training done by her two assistant coaches, Jason Koza and Augustus.
Some of the girls who signed up for the Swim Team have never swum competitively. Others, like Younger and Aly Gallagher, swim for both CA and a club team, meaning they might spend as many as 18 hours in the pool each week. Even with swimmers of varying skill levels, Mutz is consistent in her expectations. “Life is competitive, and you need someone to back you up to help you get through every day,” she says. “I emphasize camaraderie. They learn to compete, but in a healthy way.”
The freshman: Skylar Whitelaw
Skylar Whitelaw has been swimming since she was a youngster, but had not swum competitively in recent years because of her commitment to other sports. She plays field hockey for CA and also plays lacrosse year-round for Summit Elite. She considered playing basketball for CA, but finally decided, “I missed swimming—it used to be my favorite sport!”
She likes the Swim Team, because it includes a lot of her friends, many of them athletes who have the same motivation she has: “Swimming is great for cross-training.”
Whitelaw is already showing freshman power. At the recent very competitive Coach’s Invitational meet, where swimmers have to make the cut to advance, she made it to the finals on the 200 meter free relay team, along with Younger, Gallagher, and Gretchen Carpenter. Together, they swam a team best of 1:44:52.
The junior: Aly Gallagher
When she started swimming for CA three years ago, Aly Gallagher was one of only three freshmen, so she loves seeing the “new spirit, new energy, new excitement” that the Class of 2021 is bringing to the team. Gallagher also swims for the Foothills Swim Team, so much of her week is spent in a pool, but she “loves walking into school having already done a two-hour practice.”
“I’m proud of what I do, and I like who I am when I am swimming because it structures my life,” Gallagher says. “It forces me to get my homework done efficiently, because I have to get up at 4 a.m.”
Swimming for her school is important to her. “With a club swim team, it’s individuals who practice together,” she says. “But swimming for your high school means you can score as a team and reminds you that it’s a team sport.”
The senior: Anne Younger
Anne Younger is nearing the end of her career as a swimmer for CA, but she is still setting goals for the team (“to win our league meet”) and for herself. “It takes a lot of time and energy to take just one-tenth of a second off your time in an event, but it can make a huge difference,” she says. “That’s what makes swimming rewarding.”
On her club team, Younger trains every day with male swimmers. She likes the environment that CA provides with an all-girls team. “When you swim with just girls, it’s more fun,” she says. “You can talk more openly.”
New to coaching an all-girls team, Augustus also sees a difference. “They hold each other accountable, because they are all working toward one goal,” he says. “They really bond as a team.”
Younger praises CA’s assistant coaches—both of whom swam competitively in college—for helping her prepare for discussions with swim coaches on college recruiting trips. In mid-December, she learned that she had been accepted early decision at Tufts University, where she hopes to swim competitively.
The swim coaches would prefer talking about their swimmers to talking about themselves. Mutz calls Kenzie Abbott “a beautiful diver,” and notes that she has already qualified for state competition this year. She is equally proud of the many Swim Team members who are new to swimming. “It’s very gratifying when it all comes together for them,” she says. “I jump up and around when I see them get it!”
If CA aims to produce lifelong learners, CA swim coaches believe in producing lifelong swimmers. This is a competitive sport that the girls can do for their entire lives, starting in Upper School with a 6:00 a.m. training session every Monday morning. “They might complain and groan, but I tell them that I know they can do it,” Koza says. “They mature and learn that their hard work—and a little bit of pain—will produce improvements. That’s what we call having grit!”