DeKalb/Sycamore co-op swim team coach Leah Eames has learned not to make predictions in the days leading up to the sectional meet each year.
How swimmers will react to the pressure on the big stage is unpredictable, and she’s seen the gamut of surprising results.
“If there’s one thing I’ve learned coaching the sectional meet, anything is possible pretty much,” Eames said. “I’ve seen everything from extraordinary time drops that I never dreamed in a million years that somebody would be able to do to things on the other end of the spectrum. People that have nailed every flip turn they’ve ever done only to miss the wall or something like that.”
This year’s St. Charles North Sectional swim meet on Saturday figures to be especially unpredictable for the Barbs.
Eames said her team is as deep as it’s been in four years, but much of that depth comes from freshmen.
While freshmen Kylie Olson, Alexa Miller, Jensen Keck and Bailey Flemming all have experience in national competitions, Eames knows they’ve never swam with quite as much pressure as they’ll have on Saturday morning in their first section meet.
“Comparing our sectional meet to some of the top meets, the adrenaline, the excitement, the pressure, it’s hard to compare any other meet to that,” Eames said. “The swimmers that come out of that meet are special.”
The four freshmen will compete together in the 200 medley relay and the 400 freestyle relay in the meet on Saturday, while Keck, Miller and Olson all will compete in two individual events. The quartet of freshmen has competed together throughout their youth careers, and Olson is hopeful they can make it to the state meet in at least one relay.
“It would be really exciting,” Olson said. “I’ve swum with them since I was seven years old. We’ve swum together our whole life. We’re like family.”
In one of the strongest sectionals in the state, Eames knows her swimmers will have to shut out the nerves and drop their times by significant amounts.
While it would be almost unprecedented for all of her freshmen to make it down to the state meet, she knows that at sectionals, anything can happen.
“There’s definitely a lot of possibilities,” Eames said. “There’s no sure thing yet. They’re all going to have to drop their best times in order to do that. At the same time, some of them are close enough to where I feel the drop should be that they can get under that cut.”