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Urbana High School rising juniors Claire McIlmail and Sydney Williams were part of a sophomore class that helped the Hawks girls swimming and diving team to its fifth consecutive Frederick County championship this past winter.
As of June 16, the high school teammates are adversaries, competing for different teams in the Frederick Summer Swim League.
McIlmail and her older sister, recent Urbana graduate Zoe, represent the eight-year-old Villages of Urbana summer team while Williams swims for Windsor Knolls.
It’s a common theme during the summer, when even the county’s most talented athletes return to the neighborhood pools where most of them got started in swimming.
“It’s like before the races they’re joking and laughing and hugging each other, and then a minute they’re in lanes three and four racing against each other and its every man for himself,” Villages of Urbana coach Shannon Vetter said. “Then after, they’re so poised, they always shake hands and go back to laughing and talking.”
The FSSL is a rapidly growing league — some teams such as Brunswick were added as recently as 2010 — that provides the opportunity for swimmers ages 5 to 18 to work together for a common goal.
The seven-week season, which includes four dual meets, divisionals and a season-ending all-star competition, runs from June 16 through July 28. In 2011, 14 FSSL teams were divided into three result-based divisions.
The Clover Hill Hurricanes, led by rising Gov. Thomas Johnson High senior Ahmed Hegazi and junior Jacy Icard, won a competitive Division I last season that featured second-place Windsor Knolls, Hood College and the Villages of Urbana.
At the end of each season coaches submit each swimmer’s best times of the season and a virtual meet is run electronically. Coupled with division standings, the results of the virtual meet determine the following year’s alignment.
While FSSL meets don’t generate the same ultra-competitive atmosphere many of the top high school and club swimmers are used to, neighborhood pride is on the line each week.
Walkersville High School’s siblings Bradley and Molly Updegraff (Deerbought) and recent Middletown graduate Zachary Lilley (Braddock Heights) are among other top high school swimmers who will compete over the summer.
“The competition is different in the summer for club swimmers but it provides a lot of social benefits along with exercise,” Vetter said. “One of the best things about the league is the interaction between the kids [of all ages]. And the nice thing is there is a place for all these kids, of all levels.”