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Swimming and diving: CEC team credits family bond to success

If legendary television producer Norman Lear had created a series about the Cloquet-Esko-Carlton girls' swim team, he could have called it "All in the Swamily."

A close-knit team of girls who call themselves "The Swamily" is on the verge of its biggest competition of the season — the Thursday, Nov. 8, section meet at Duluth's Lincoln Park Middle School.

"The kids and their families are just amazing," coach Rachel Peterson said. "We have great families in our program and all the girls get a ton of support. That's why they call themselves what they do."

Junior Maddie Dostal's family hosted the annual "carb load" spaghetti dinner Wednesday as the team continues its process of "tapering" — or resting — for the big meet.

"The girls have still had good things going for them in practice," Peterson said. "We are seeing some good swims, they look strong and they're excited."

The team was bolstered by good performances at the Lake Superior Conference meet last week.

"I think it gave us a lot of confidence," Peterson said. "It showed the girls what they are capable of doing. We got some phenomenal swims from girls who might not have thought they would be able to do it. So they got some confidence and they can see how their hard work is paying off."

And if the "swamily" has a godmother, it's senior Makayla Suominen, preparing for her last section meet.

"It's definitely bittersweet," Suominen said "I'm very excited but sad because it's the last section meet so it's a mixed feeling there."

Suominen, who has verbally committed to Alaska-Fairbanks to continue her swim career, had the pressure of choosing a college in addition to leading her younger teammates this year.

"It has been a learning experience to say the least," she said. "It's been chaotic the last few months — go on trips, make a decision soon, I'll be honest, It was very stressful."

Suominen visited with fellow CEC grad Anja Maijala, who is skiing at UAF.

"When I went on my trip, she and I went to lunch and I got to talk with her," Suominen said. "I love Anja, and I fell in love with Alaska. I fit so well there and I felt completely at home."

Ah, home. Where the "swamily" is.

"I can't even tell you where the 'swamily' originated,'" Suominen said. "I think it was maybe my third year on the team. It was a little rough then; we had some girls who can get dramatic, but it all came together then. Looking back from my seventh grade year to my senior year, the change is amazing."

Suominen credits God-given ability for her success, but supportive teammates help, too.

"I can look back on certain things and say there's no way hard work did that," Suominen said. "But I do really think the team has something not everyone has. It's extremely supportive and loving. Not everyone will be your best friend but we all deal with each other so well. There's not a ton of drama and I greatly appreciate that."

Peterson agrees.

"The girls refer to it as not only how they think of their teammates, but how they treat each other and the support they get. It's not just the team. They are family."

Peterson notes that the upper-class swimmers made posters for the junior high swimmers' "Little Giant" meet last weekend.

"I see it on all levels," she said. "We have super-supportive parents from the younger girls. The older girls aren't the only ones who lead."