The Mundelein girls' swimming team honored its seniors recently after the final dual meet of the season, even though it was held at Lake Forest. A few days before that meet, the team had a special senior dinner, held in the school's cafeteria.
The Mustangs have had to adapt almost everything this season, including traditions that normally would have been held in the school pool.
But Mundelein's pool has been closed and under construction since late last February and isn't expected to be finished until next February after some delays since its initial projected completion was late-October.
"The girls were slightly concerned (before the start of the season)," Mundelein coach Melissa Healy said. "What I stressed since day one was, nothing changes, even though we aren't in our home pool."
Senior captain Meghan Falconer, in her fourth season on the team, quickly gave the team its motto for the season: No Pool, No Problem.
"It's been a little different without a (home) pool," said Falconer, 17, who lives in Mundelein and competes in backstroke and butterfly events. "I think we have taken this negative thing and turned it into a positive, and no matter where we are, or the conditions we have to endure, we make the best of it. We still work our hardest.
"In swimming, it doesn't really matter where you swim, at your home (pool) or on the road. Sure, maybe the water will feel a little different and the walls (around the pool) will be a little different, but everything is still the same, regardless of where you are."
So the Mustangs of 2012 will be remembered as the vagabonds of the season. They traveled to all of their dual meets and Saturday will compete in the North Suburban Conference meet at Vernon Hills. They have practice once a week, on Tuesdays, at Vernon Hills, and have all other practices at the YMCA's Camp Duncan, located along Highway 12 in Ingleside.
The team's divers do all of their practicing at Vernon Hills.
They also have morning dry-land training at school three days a week.
"(Practices have) been fine. It's about a 20-minute drive from school," said Healy, in her third season as head coach and 16th overall at the school. "It's allowed us to keep the same practice schedule, starting right after school. We've been able to keep things consistent.
"The girls have really handled it well, as well as I could have expected, or better. Knowing that next year we will be in a better pool than we've ever had makes it worth the wait. They really have adjusted well, and they absolutely have grown closer and jelled better as a team -- thanks to the extended time on the bus to and from practice, to and from every meet. ... The team has had to adjust to a little less practice time. Practices are now more quality practice time. When we look back at this year, it will be the year that we faced a little bit of adversity, but were able to come out ahead."
Erin Falconer, 15, a sophomore and two-year varsity swimmer who competes in the butterfly, said the girls' additional time together has certainly brought them closer. So have the bugs they endure at, near and sometimes in the Camp Duncan pool.
"It's really gross," she said, laughing.
The $2.8 million indoor pool project at Mundelein includes changing the former shape to more of a square look, and the depth of the pool will be changed, too. Mundelein's pool was built in 1987 and was not deep enough to host conference or regional swim meets, nor could the school use diving blocks for racing, per IHSA rules.
A $10 million voter referendum was passed last April to pay for the new pool, along with other building improvements at the school, Healy said.
Mundelein's pool is being converted from six lanes to 10, plus it will be much deeper than the original. Plus, diving blocks will be able to be used, as the entry depth will be increased from 3.5 feet to 5 feet.
"It was more of a teaching pool than a competition pool," Healy said. "I do think, once finished, this pool will become very desirable to swim in. That's our hope."
Mundelein started classes later than normal, on Aug. 27, as construction was being completed on other parts of the school, not just the pool. So, the team had several weeks before classes started to get used to the out-of-the norm routine.
"That really helped us," Healy said. "I envision, this pool (once completed) that is really big, deeper and faster (than it once was). So I'm really curious to see how it ends up."
The 2012 girls water polo team also traveled around to area pools for practice, often at other schools.
"It's very difficult, but we make the most of it," said Michelle Barron, a senior who lives in Round Lake and also plays for the water polo team. "However, it really has brought us closer as a team, that's for sure, and it definitely has made us a better team."
Lauren Anderson, 17, a senior in her second year swimming for the Mustangs, said it has been a "real interesting situation, and it affects us every single day." However, it has not affected Mundelein in meets, she said.
"There has been a lot of team bonding on all of the bus rides we take," Anderson said.
Healy added: "We're too good of a team to allow the fact that we don't have the nicest and prettiest pool to affect us, let alone a home pool this season. It's been an interesting year, that's for sure."
Regardless of what happens in the water, or what pool they swim in.