Girls swimming: Holly Spears’ personality, skills help propel improving LC
BY JOSH LICHTENFELD Post-Tribune correspondent January 30, 2013 11:24PM
Crown Point's Hannah Raspopovich, left, and Lake Central's Holly Spears share the second place podium after the 50 Yard Freestyle during the girls swim sectionals on Saturday, February 4, 2012, in Crown Point. | Scott R. Brandush~Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 2, 2013 11:49AM
Let’s face it, swim training can be tough. Competition can be ruthless. And the physicality of spending hours inside local natatoriums, working to trim fragments of time away, can be downright tiresome.
The Lake Central girls swimming team is no exception to any of this. Week-to-week and season-to-season, for the past few years, the Indians have been climbing the ladder in the ultra-competitive Duneland Athletic Conference, and in the postseason. In consecutive seasons the Indians have increased the competition level in conference events. And, starting with a 39th-place finish at the state meet of 2010, they jumped 10 spots in both of the next two finals (finishing in 19th place last winter).
However, some athletes have a way of softening the tension. And for the LC girls, junior Holly Spears hasn’t exactly been shy in her three-year stint.
“She definitely brings a personality to our team,” LC coach Todd Smolinski said. “She has a fun, outspoken personality that can lighten the mood. Very positive, very upbeat.”
But Spears is about more than personality.
A key member on the relays, she is a significant part of the Indians’ improvements (for example at the 2012 Crown Point Sectional, she anchored the school’s record time of 1:47.92 in the 200 medley relay for the team that advanced to state with a hard-fought third-place finish). Not to mention, the upperclassman in also a viable threat in freestyle events (she’s seeded highly in both sprints heading into today’s preliminary round of the Munster Sectional).
To Smolinski, in Spears’ part of the four events, there’s a definite perspective.
“That’s kind of how the sprinters mentality is,” he explained. “When she gets behind the blocks, she gets in a zone and is set out to race.”
Coming into the postseason, Spears and the Indians finished second in the conference race, boast a 6-2-1 overall record, and are still riding the good vibes from upsetting sectional favorites Munster at the Highland Invite on Jan. 5 — by utilizing many second- and third-place swims (Spears’ time of 24.33 in the 50 free was third and she took second in the 100 free with a time of 53.07). Not even the considerable graduation loss of backstroker Shelby Carroll has been limiting. LC appears even deeper than last year’s group.
“It was more like, wow, so this is what we’re capable of,” Spears said of the breakthrough at Highland, where the Indians edged the Seahorses 388-378. “Everybody was really excited and pumped for the rest of the season.”
And that exuberance hasn’t subsided for LC. The teamwork and unity has been a constant during preparations for the fast-paced waters of the Munster Natatorium. It’s not a stretch to say the Indians want hardware and another shift in scoring downstate.
“I guess you can say we need everyone to leave it all in the pool for sectionals, or at state, or however far we go,” Spears said. “I just hope that everybody gets the time that they want, work, and push really hard.”
Said Smolinski: “We definitely want to improve 10 spots — we hope to get top 10. I think that this girls team can. I think this is one of the most talented groups I’ve worked with on the girls side.”