FORT WAYNE – Whether they were brothers or boyfriends, fellow swimmers or loyal followers, the chorus of male voices from the Helen P. Natatorium stands chanted what the rest of the swimming world already knew:
Car-roll fresh-men! Car-roll fresh-men! Car-roll fresh-men!
As the once-churning water settled into calm, the cry from up top came immediately after the Chargers 400-yard relay team won a furious three-way race in the sectional meet Saturday.
Beginning the final leg in third place, Zoe Toscos, in Lane 3, swam the most memorable anchor of her young life as Carroll took first place with a time of 3:33.32. Homestead, the team meet champion, touched at 3:33.34 to the immediate right of Toscos. Snider, with the 50 and 100 freestyle champion Michaela Mintch in Lane 5, would be an oh-so-close third at 3:33.69.
During the race that had the place in an uproar, Carroll coach John Gibson said his heart was here, his flat hand near his throat.
It was a fitting climax to the freshmen performance that, aside from Homesteads team triumph, captured the afternoon.
Less than 20 minutes earlier, the same 400 free lineup of Courtney Kresl, Lauren Blanchard, Mykenzie Kostka and Toscos won the 200 freestyle – this time with Snider finishing second and Homestead third.
Keep in mind that Toscos, who placed second as an individual in the 200 free, was not long out of the pool after a second-place finish in swimming versions of the marathon – the 500 freestyle that requires 20 lengths of the 25-yard pool.
Meanwhile, Kresl had also qualified for the 50 and 100 freestyle events at todays and Saturdays state meet in Indianapolis. In all, six Chargers will be going. But it is the freshmen, with two relay championships on their résumé, who will be leading the contingent.
After the (400) relay, a bunch of parents had it on video, and the whole, entire team came over, Kresl said.
We were standing around our block, and all of us just screaming together. Half of us are in tears; half of us are smiling. It was amazing. It felt so good. Even though we didnt win the meet as a team, we set so many personal records and set so many school records, it was an amazing day.
Gibson switched the order for the 400 when he led off with Kresl and moved to Toscos to anchor. And he told Kresl to take the lead and not give it up.
It kind of put a lot of pressure on me since I dont want to let the team down, said Blanchard, the 14-year-old who swam the second leg. But once you dive off that block, its all racing.
Third leg belonged to Kostka.
It still feels unreal, she said. We all agreed, when we talked to each other, that oh my gosh, that felt like a dream.
The dream swim of Toscos meet was about to come with a 51.60 over the final 100 yards.
Im thinking this is my last thing, and I want to go out and leave everything in the pool and do my best and win for Carroll, Toscos said.
When it was over, and while his four freshmen warmed down, Gibson smiled and shook his head at what he and everybody had just watched.
Guts, he said. Heart.
Those four freshmen – the best thing about them is they love to race and they do not like to get beat.