The cooperative agreement between South Whidbey High School and Kamiak that allowed Falcons Kinsey Eager, Ally Lynch, and Bella Northup to swim competitively with the Knights paid off.
Juggling school and swimming, all three saw an improvement in their times. Eager and Lynch also qualified for the Class 2A/1A District finals at Fidalgo Pool in Anacortes.
Thorne swam with tendinitis and bursitis in her right shoulder for over half the season and was unable to compete at the district meet.
“I’ve never been injured before so it was super frustrating,” Thorne said. “It was a lot of work, but it was good, it was worth it for sure because I think we improved a lot just in a few weeks.”
Lynch dropped her starting time of 35.63 in the 50 free to 30.4, while she also competed in the 200-meter free, an event she had never competed in prior to the co-op.
Eager decreased her time of 31.02 in the 50-meter free to 27.53, while also improving her time in the 100-meter free from 1:05.8 to 1:02.3.
“It just proves what you can do if you really work hard,” Eager, a junior, said.
It was the little things that pushed the girls beyond what they had previously thought was possible, Eager said.
It was the girls’ first exposure to a competitive environment and a coach who was accustomed to picking up on the smallest of details to improve their form. The trio previously swam with the South Whidbey Stringrays club.
“He exposed a whole new world to us with that kind of stuff and it really helped,” Eager said.
The girls had never dived off blocks before using Kamiak’s facilities, which led to early increases in their times.
All of their previous times had been recorded starting in the water due to South Whidbey not having a deep enough pool to dive into.
Erickson allowed the girls to gain their traction in the early parts of the season by putting them in events they were most comfortable in. But before long, the trio were asked to compete in a range of events to broaden their experience and test new boundaries.
“I would’ve never known I would have been good at the 200 free because we don’t swim it (in the club),” Lynch said. “But at Kamiak there’s so many more races and it’s just so much bigger.”
Eager said the idea for the co-op first occurred to her when she was a freshman and running cross country. When she decided cross country wasn’t for her the following season, swimming in the fall became a serious possibility. But because Lynch and Northup were freshmen and Eager didn’t have a driver license, the proposition had to be put on hold. After Eager received her license, it became a reality.
“This was the year, I was like, ‘We are so doing it,’ ” Eager said. “It started a long time ago. It took a lot of thinking and planning.”
The season, however, wasn’t a breeze.
The girls faced a daunting task of balancing their time between swimming and school, which included commuting to Kamiak six days a week.
Lynch and Northup, sophomores, were also enrolled in drivers education.
As the season progressed, dedicating time to school after swimming practice became more difficult. The intensity of the practices increased, and school work became more challenging as the year progressed.
“You’re just exhausted and you just don’t feel like doing homework,” Lynch said.
Eager said they were fortunate to have only missed one ferry the entire season due to a late arriving bus. She also noted that they never let the tough circumstances deter their resolve.
“We never really complained because we love swimming so much,” Eager said. “I complain about going to track practice, I complain about going to basketball practice, but we really wanted to do it. We wanted it.”
Because of the trio’s efforts, more swimmers may turn out next year.
Eager said the trio went and spoke with the Stringrays swim club and found that more than a few were intrigued by the prospects of swimming competitively for South Whidbey.
The South Whidbey Aquatics Foundation helped make the co-op possible by donating $125 to each of the girls to help with the cost of team suits, bus fares and ferry expenses.
Though they didn’t qualify for state this year, Eager said Erickson has high hopes for the trio next year.
“Even though we didn’t make it to state this year, we just have that much more motivation to get it next year,” Eager said. “Our coach really thinks we can make it to state, which makes me want to work even harder next year.”