They put in the work, win state title

Bainbridge High School’s girls swim team just won the state championship, and it didn’t happen by accident — it took hours upon hours of hard work.

Margaret Hayes spends more than 18 hours a week swimming. It’s like a halftime job. During COVID-19 that’s as much time as people spent watching Netflix.

What does she think of during all that time? “Ice, Ice Baby,” she said, adding she often thinks of songs, and that one keeps coming back to her mind time and time again. “I get a song stuck in my head,” the senior said.

She also thinks of tests that she’s studying for or that she has just taken. And, of course, she thinks of the swim stroke she is using at the time, trying to perfect it during repetition so she gets the most out of it.

Emma Solseng, a junior, also thinks of songs and tests. Both are All Americans, having achieved that honor their freshman years by having one of the Top 100 times in the nation in a particular race.

Hayes and Solseng are great role models for the team. After graduation, Hayes is going to Princeton and will swim on their team. Solseng hopes to also swim at an Ivy League school after graduation.

Alexa McDevitt is one of seven outstanding freshmen on the team who competed at state. She is looking forward to the future, too, but she’s not thinking of college yet. She’s thinking of how dominant the swim team can be at state, not only with the great freshman class but the strong eighth-grade class coming in at the club level.

“The girls who have come before us have set a good example,” she said, adding she’s excited about “next year and the year after that.”

All three girls, and many on the team, started swimming with the BI club when they were age 7.

“We have a great feeder program,” said Kristine Cox, who has been with the program for four years, but this is her first one as head coach, and she topped it off with a state crown.

Cox said swimmers are taught when they are young the proper method for all the different strokes. So by the time they get to high school she helps them tweak things like their turns to shave some time off their events.

She said the swimmers tapered off some just prior to state so they would be well-rested. She expected the swimmers to drop a lot of time at state as they would be wearing “tech suits” and in a “fast pool” with a lot of competition. Plus they had their “cheer squad” to provide plenty of “energy.”

Hayes said the cheering was one thing she missed a lot during COVID-19. She loves swimming the anchor leg of the 200-yard medley relay and “looking to see everybody cheering.” That was one of two relay teams she was on that won state titles.

She said there haven’t been many big races over the past two years, so she’s trying to be positive and pass along her “senior wisdom” to the young squad.

Like Hayes, Solseng didn’t have any personal goals for state, other than to do her best. They were more focused on the team. “I want to swim well for everybody else,” she said. “All the people who have helped me up until now.”

Solseng said she has to “play around with her stroke a lot. I’m on the shorter side for a swimmer. I try to use that to my advantage – my arms reach further or swim at a faster tempo.”

Tempo is very important for McDevitt as she swims the longest race, the 500-meter freestyle. “It’s not that I like it, but I’m good at it,” she said, adding, “It’s what’s best for the team.” She placed third in that event at state.

As for what she thinks about during that long race, she said, “I think about holding my stroke together for as long as possible.” And, “I look at everyone else I’m racing against.”