By Craig Clary, email@example.com
10:16 AM EST, December 19, 2013
The excitement surrounding the unbeaten Mount de Sales swim team starts on the pool deck with coach Courtney Gahagan and it churns through the water behind the fluid strokes of six senior leaders.
Alyson Schmid, Alie Caulfield, Allison Bracken, Kristen Bargas, Kellen McDonald and Lilly Vartain provide the spirit and talent that has bonded with the underclassmen to make the Sailors a threat in the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference championship meet, which will be held Feb. 1 at McDonogh School.
"We have six seniors and they are all so talented," Gahagan said. "They are amazing leaders and they are a very competitive group of girls and they love Sailor swimming. All six of them pour their heart and soul into this team and it helps the rest of the girls rise to the occasion. It really elevates the competitiveness of the whole team."
Their influence has boosted the confidence of sophomore Katlyn Martin, whose first-place finish in the 50 freestyle, along with the third-place swim from teammate Bracken, set the tone early in the Sailors' 49-45 upset of McDonogh on Dec. 4.
"That was kind of a really big moment," said Gahagan, whose much bigger moment came in the final race of the meet — the 400 meter relay.
The foursome of junior Kelly Long, Martin and Bracken and Caulfield needed to place second or better to win the meet and they took second.
Schmid, who was second in the 200 free and 100 butterfly, was cheering from the pool deck along with her friend Bargas.
"Me and my best friend are two of the shortest people on the team, but we are also some of the loudest people on the team," said Schmid, also thrilled by the first-place 200 relay team that included Long, Vargas, Bracken and freshman Maggie Stein.
Enthusiasm has carried throughout the entire season at meets and practices.
"It's just been loud and it's been crazy," Schmid said. "It's just been a lot of everyone having fun, everybody cheering for each other, so it's really easy to just get in there and feel that competitive nature and feel that spirit."
Although Schmid and the Sailors defeated the Eagles during her junior season, this one was more satisfying.
"I know the meet that we won last year, they had been missing some key swimmers and this year they were there, so to come out and still be on top was completely unexpected," Schmid said.
The Sailors (4-0, 3-0 conference) also defeated Bryn Mawr on the same day, 63-31, as part of a tri-meet.
They've also beaten Archbishop Spalding, 95-75, in the A Conference and own a B Conference victory over John Carroll.
They have one more B Conference date with St. Mary's on Jan. 3 before ending the regular season with a tough league meet against Notre Dame Prep on Jan 10.
NDP was second to McDonogh at last year's IAAM championships and the Sailors were fourth behind Spalding.
McDonogh has won 10 of the past 14 championships and NDP won the other four.
"I always tell the girls we haven't won a championship," said Gahagan, whose squad's home meets are held at the Catonsville YMCA.
But, if it's up to Schmid and the seniors, they will go out as winners.
"We come from different club teams and we specialize in different things, but at the end of the day, we all want to win," she said. "We all want to do whatever we can to help each other be the best that we can be and be that winning team together."
Martin, one of seven sophomores along with Jessica Berry, Bridget Bodley, Brooke Hoffman, Maddie McVeary, Elizabeth Ryan, and Molly Tucker, has caught the winning Sailor spirit and fever.
"I love it," she said. "It makes swimming so much fun. They really motivate everyone to do their best and they are really inspiring too."
But, she admits the success brings some added pressure.
"Since we're undefeated now, we have to keep our streak going," Martin said. "We have to get our banner up in the gym."
Juniors Katie Brown, Laurel Glover and Long and freshmen Addie Allen, Arianna Delgado, Clare Glasgow, Mackenzie Hite, Christina Schweitzer, Kelly Szalankiewicz, Sophie Talbert, Mary Vita and Stein will also help try to make that a reality.
The Sailors got a break from the tough dual meet season on Dec. 13 when they teamed with the Mount St. Joseph boys team and tried to defend their title in the Icicle Invitational relay meet held in Joppatowne.