Carmel had the high school boys and girls swimming teams of the decade. Next goal: Putting the first Carmel swimmer on a U.S. Olympic team.
“There’s plenty of opportunity there,” coach Chris Plumb said. “We probably have more top-eight and top-16 seeds than we’ve ever had before. And that’s all you can do. You just keep more people up there.”
The global pandemic postponed the Tokyo Olympics from 2020 to 2021, so the quest was delayed.
Among women, Carmel candidates for Team USA include Amy Bilquist, Veronica Burchill, Emma Nordin and Kelly Pash. Men aiming at Tokyo are Drew Kibler, Jake Mitchell and Wyatt Davis.
During the college season, Kibler (Texas) was a favorite to win an NCAA title in the 200-yard freestyle, Nordin (Arizona State) had the fastest time in the 500-yard freestyle and Burchill (Georgia) ranked third in the 200 freestyle. Then the NCAA Championships were canceled.
Kibler, Mitchell and Davis (both Michigan) have headed to their respective campuses, but all trained at Carmel over the summer.
“It was just really fun to watch those guys race again, and compete in practice,” Plumb said.
In its September edition, Swimming World assembled the top 16 times from 2010-19 and assigned points by school. Carmel girls, who have won a record 34 straight state titles, and Carmel boys were team champions.
For girls, Carmel had 181 points to 116 for runner-up Harpeth Hall (Tenn.). The Greyhounds had more than a 100-point margin over the next-highest public school, Buchholtz (Fla.), 76.5.
For boys, Carmel had 160 to 146 for runner-up Bolles School of Jacksonville, Fla. Bolles School has produced 13 Olympic medalists, including two champions from the 2016 Rio Games, Ryan Murphy and Joseph Schooling.
As with the girls, Carmel boys had a huge margin over the next-highest public school, North Allegheny (Pa.), 95.
“It was extremely gratifying because I know the work the entire community has put into the program — from the staff to the parents to the coaches to the administrators,” Plumb said. “I think this is the result of getting all the oars in the water in the same direction.”
If anything, the team scores understate Carmel achievements. Veronica Burchill’s state record of 51.79 in the girls 100-yard butterfly (which would rank sixth) was omitted. Carmel boys set five Indiana and two national records at the Feb. 29 state meet, but those 2020 times were not eligible for points.
Carmel might have been boys national champion for 2020, but that designation was not awarded because so many state meets were canceled.
Carmel had arguably the greatest girls team ever in 2015, setting national records in all three relays. Two of those records, in the 200- and 400-yard freestyle relays, still stand.
“The relays are the culmination. You’ve got to be good across the board,” Plumb said. “That’s what makes you proud as a coach. They’ll swim faster for their teammates than they will for themselves. I think Veronica embodied that.”
Improbably, five girls from that 2015 team — Bilquist, Claire Adams, Veronica and Sammie Burchill, and Nordin — became national champions in individual events.
Highest-ranked Carmel girls of the decade were Bilquist, third in the 100 freestyle, 2015, and Adams, fifth in the 100 backstroke, 2016.
Highest-ranked Hoosier girl was Yorktown’s Emily Weiss, first with a national record of 58.40 in the 100 breaststroke in 2018. Double Olympic gold medalist Lilly King of Evansville Reitz was seventh in that event at 59.63 from 2015.
Highest-ranked Carmel boys were Kibler, third in the 50 freestyle, 2018, and fourth in the 200 freestyle (a public school record in 2017), and Mitchell, fifth in the 500 freestyle, 2019. (Mitchell broke the public school record in 2020.)
Carmel has a strong start to the next decade.
During March and April when pools were closed, swimmers concentrated on weightlifting and produced results that were “off the charts,” Plumb said. Other than abiding by safety guidelines, practices have been mostly normal since late May.
Swimmers have never been this fast in early September, the coach said. Carmel Swim Club has scheduled an intrasquad meet for Oct. 2-4.
“We’re going to see if the dividends pay off down the road,” Plumb said. “But I would suspect that they will.”
Contact IndyStar reporter David Woods at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter: @DavidWoods007.