ST. CHARLES – St. Charles East girls swimming coach Joe Cabel has been around the block a few times as Saints coach. Cabel has won championships, coached prolific athletes and seen everything else in between during his tenure.
It was on the way to the St. Charles North Sectional last week that Cabel had to do something he had never done before – stop the bus.
A song adopted by East seniors Kimmie Scott, Nicole Chapko and Mary Snyder whipped the team into such a frenzy, Cabel had to pull the bus over.
The main lyrics of the song – “Until they kick us out” – are more than fitting for the seniors who have created a life-long friendship after meeting at the St. Charles Swimming Club as kids.
The trio hopes nothing short of team and individual success will kick the Saints out of the pool at the IHSA State Meet at Evanston Township High School, starting with today’s preliminaries.
“It’s gotten to the point that coach plays the song everywhere we go,” Chapko said. “He played it on the minibus on the way to sectionals and we were all jumping in the bus and it was shaking so much he had to stop.”
The three seniors, who have all committed to Division I college swim programs, lead a deep Saints team into the state meet. East qualified 11 individuals and three relay teams.
While team chemistry can sometimes be overstated, the bond that these Saints share is undeniable.
Scott and Chapko met when they were 11 as both signed up to swim for the St. Charles Swimming Club. Snyder moved to the area a few years later and the girls instantly hit it off.
“We became friends when we all first met and we’ve gotten closer as the years have gone on,” Scott said. “When we met, we just clicked. It has helped in the pool. When it’s time to go, we push each other and compete with each other. It brings out the best in us and the worst in us. It strengthens our relationships, and we’re always there for each other.”
The close-knit friendships helped the trio when they first jumped into the pool at East as freshmen. Each understood the program’s high expectations and tried to blend in as best they could.
“I remember it being very intimidating and everyone seeming so much older than you,” Snyder said. “Now that I look at our current freshmen, I look back and remember being them and knowing exactly how they felt a knowing what they felt at that age.”
Now seniors, the three friends are throwing their collective experiences behind a deep and talented Saints team that won the St. Charles North Sectional over rival North, 315-249.
“We have a really tight group of girls that are like to have a lot of fun,” Cabel said. “We want to have a lot of fun this weekend. The seniors have been great leaders all season. They’ve been there, done that, so they know what do.”
East’s 200-yard medley relay (1:48.30); 200 freestyle relay (1:38.14); and 400 freestyle relay (3:35.27) are all within striking distance of the top sectional times.
In addition, Chapko (200-yard IM; 2:08.85), Snyder (100-yard freestyle; 0:53.19) and junior Izzie Bindseil (200-yard freestyle; 1:52.74) all have individual shots to reach the podium.
The three seniors will hope to utilize their experiences at the state meet. With thousands of people packed into a small area, the starting blocks can be a scary place to be.
“It’s just such a small area at state, I remember freaking out,” Chapko said. “You go back year after year and now it’s a good nervous. We know what to expect. It’s just different than any other swim meet you’ve been to before.”
On the eve of state, the seniors are trying to focus on success instead of the harsh reality that the meet will be their last together.
“We’ll be pretty focused the day of the meet,” Snyder said. “I don’t think it will be until the day after that we realize we’re done.”
The Ball State-bound Scott admitted that she would be the first to cry when the meet ends.
“My relationships have grown so much and knowing I’ll be going to a completely new place is scary,” Scott said. “To know I won’t be seeing these people every day is really hard to think about.”
Upon graduation in May, Chapko (Michigan State), Snyder (Villanova) and Scott will spread out across the country swimming with new teammates at unfamiliar places.
Until then, they’ll keep jumping in the pool together until someone kicks them out.