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Indiana Girls Swim Team Hopes To Make History In High School Sports

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

An Indiana girl's high school team is poised to make its mark in sports history. If the Carmel girls' swim team wins at state this year, they will hold the record for the most consecutive wins of any U.S. high school team. Jill Sheridan of member station WFYI in Indianapolis swam for that team back in the early '90s and headed back to the pool for this report.

JILL SHERIDAN, BYLINE: It's 6:30 a.m. at the Carmel High School natatorium in a northern suburb of Indianapolis. The smell of chlorine in the morning brings back memories. Signs on the wall read, integrity, tradition, intensity and pride. And there's no shortage of state championship plaques, 29, to be exact - an astounding 29 championships in a row.

This morning, more than 70 girls wearing bright blue caps with large yellow C's are swimming laps. They weren't even born when the streak began back in 1986. Seventeen-year-old senior Claire Adams says they don't really talk about the run for the record.

CLAIRE ADAMS: We focus on, like, trials and those higher goals and things and that we feel like the streak is something that just kind of comes with that. So when you set your standards higher, you're going to reach those same goals.

SHERIDAN: Adams has been swimming competitively since the fourth grade, and soon after, she started getting serious.

ADAMS: I started, like, actually really working and, like, putting in my time and those kinds of things and, like, learning how to get better.

SHERIDAN: A lot of time - 20-plus hours a week. And as for getting better, Adams ranks ninth worldwide in the 100 backstroke. She could become Carmel's first Olympian.

Carmel's biggest rival is North Central High, where sophomore Payton Isakson swims. She admits a little jealousy over the attention Carmel gets.

PAYTON ISAKSON: Their constant success takes away from the talent of other athletes throughout the state because girls' high school swimming in the state of Indiana focuses primarily on the successes of Carmel High School girls' swimming and diving.

SHERIDAN: Others complain about the team's other advantages. Carmel High School, the second largest in the state, is in one of the most affluent suburbs in the country. The private Carmel Swim Club works closely with the public school providing a freestyle feeder, and the school's 10-lane aquatic center is an upgrade from my days. Head Coach Chris Plumb hears the talk but says people can say what they want.

CHRIS PLUMB: They're not here four mornings a week at 5:20 in the morning. They're not here, you know, till 6 o'clock at night on the weekends. They're not traveling across the country. And that's the beauty about swimming is you have to work for it. Times aren't given. We're self-made here.

SHERIDAN: According to the National Federation of State High School Associations, a championship win this season will make it 30 years of consecutive wins for the team, more than any other high school team in the U.S. ever - that's basketball, football, track, golf, girls' or boys'.

PLUMB: Have a good day, guys. Have a superb day. Have a fantastic day.

SHERIDAN: After practice, the girls line up to shake hands with the coaches. Coach Plumb started that ritual about five years ago as a way to better connect with his swimmers. He stresses that what they've built in this pool goes beyond any meet.

PLUMB: We've shown that young women, when they get together, can do amazing things.

SHERIDAN: Last season, the Carmel girls tied the consecutive win record that was held by Barack Obama's alma mater, Punahou High in Hawaii, from 1958 to 1986. State championships will be held in February in Indianapolis, and all eyes will again be on the swim team's remarkable winning streak. For NPR News, I'm Jill Sheridan. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.