From the moment they came on-deck through their time huddled in the water around coach Joe Cabel who spoke from the starting block area to his team -- the St. Charles East girls swim team were one Black-and-Orange unit.
And that didn't just happen by accident. This is how the Saints are approaching the season, and that approach is paying huge dividends. Saturday, St. Charles East hosted its annual College Events Meet, and finished second to defending state champion New Trier.
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"We looked really good today," Cabel said. "We worked out this morning and I thought we were going to be tired. But we live and die by 'Together Each Achieves More' -- TEAM. And it worked today."
The Saints announced their intention to compete with the Trevians from the opening race when they were a strong second in the 400-yard medley relay. And the girls on that relay -- Mary Snyder, Shea Hoyt, Izzie Bindseil and Nicole Chapko -- helped propel the team's top-end results all afternoon.
Snyder, for example, won the 200 freestyle and the 100 freestyle.
"We're a little tired going into this meet," Snyder said. "It's rough coming through a hard week of practice and having to race. We raced against Neuqua (Valley) on Thursday, so we're coming off another tough meet. But I think we really pulled some swims out of nowhere from quite a lot of different people. It was cool to see people racing and going after it."
Cabel may have set the "TEAM" theme, but the Saints have embraced the concept.
"We're like one big family," Snyder said. "We have a lot of fun cheering each other on."
St. Charles East hosts a college event-formatted meet to give its swimmers a chance to see what meets are like at the next level. The format features 200-yard races in every stroke, a 1000-yard freestyle and a 400-yard individual medley. Seniors like Snyder will be competing in that format beginning in 2013.
Before they get to that point, there is plenty of work to do. October is traditionally the hardest month for training as swimmers prepare for the key November postseason meets.
"October is a lot of training and dual meets packed into the weeks," Snyder said. "Today's meet is a very good marking point, to see where you are and where you're going and to see what you can get through in the middle of the season."
Chapko scored a victory in the 400 IM and was third in the 100 freestyle.
"We have a strong team with a lot of depth on the team this year and that really adds to the excitement," Chapko said. "Being a senior, it adds a sentimental value to it. We have a good team and we swam really well. It was exciting to watch us perform against New Trier, the top team in the state right now."
Like Snyder, Chapko intends to swim in college, so the longer distances are a good way to race the longer distances while still with her high school team.
"It's kind of nice to swim this," Chapko said. "Yeah, it's nice to swim the high school sprints and short events. But in reality, it's not what you're going to be racing in the future. So it's nice to check up on how you're doing, how you're improving from year to year."
Chapko said her personal best in the 400 IM is 4:30 and she swam 4:36 on Saturday.
"We're all pretty exhausted," she said. "To swim 4:36 today, I'm pretty happy with that."
Hoyt won the 100 breaststroke, second in the 200 breaststroke and fourth in the 50 freestyle. She said the challenge comes with swimming the longer distances when the focus the rest of the season is on the 100-yard stroke races.
"It's harder getting your mind to focus on pacing yourself and not sprinting the whole thing," Hoyt said.
Hoyt is a junior who moved to St. Charles toward the end of last swim season. "I like how supportive our team is and how we do everything together and how it's a really fun atmosphere," Hoyt said.
Stephanie Garvin added third-place finishes in the 1,000 freestyle and the 500 freestyle while Lucy Johnson was fourth in the 1,000 freestyle and fifth in the 500 freestyle.