Swimmers from different high schools can just get along

MARYSVILLE – Even though her team has members from three high schools, they still get along swimmingly.

Coach Jaci Legore-Hodgins insists on it.

“We’re community ambassadors. We bring both together,” Legore-Hodgins said. “We have three coaches, two teams and one family.” “We’re all a community. Jaci pushes it,” agreed Lexi Kilbourn of Marysville Getchell, one of the team’s two standout divers.

Even though MG split from Marysville-Pilchuck eight years ago, hers is still the only team that consists of girls from each school. This year, they also have Bindi Pedersen, a junior at private Grace Academy, who is being recruited by Penn State.

Bindi won both the 400-meter freestyle and 200-meter individual medley at a recent meet at Oak Harbor. In a later meet at Monroe, she won both events again – the medley by a whopping 10 seconds.

Other standouts are divers Lexi, a junior, and senior Lauren Carson of M-P. At that same meet, Lauren edged out Lexi for first place by eight points. In the later meet at Monroe, it was Lexi winning by four points. Last year, Lexi’s first in diving, she said she beat Lauren more often than not. Lexi was sixth at state, and Lauren also placed.

“But she’s improved,” Lexi said. “She went to diving camp.”

Lauren said she has been lifting weights so she is getting better lift off the diving board. She’s also swimming faster in her other events.

Lauren, a daughter of M-P football coach Brandon Carson, was a club swimmer early on, but as a freshman started diving, too.

“It looked fun, so I thought I’d try it,” she said.

Lauren said rather than rivals, she and Lexi are friends who give each other feedback.

Lauren hopes to dive for the University of Idaho. But first she needs experience on the 3-meter board in Federal Way. In high school they use a 1-meter board. The three-sport athlete doesn’t know if she could do that and still play basketball. She also competes in track in the pole vault.

“I hope to do both,” she said.

Lexi said being a longtime gymnast helped her learn diving quickly. “I’ve always been a good twister,” said Lexi, who fractured her back so quit gymnastics after 13 years. “We twist like a gymnast flips so we already know” how to do it.

She also wants to dive in college, and said she and Lauren help each other.

“We’re like best friends,” she said.

Lexi said M-P’s pool doesn’t have any fancy gadgets to help them learn diving. She actually prefers that.

“When you smack and stuff, you learn from that,” she said.

Legore-Hodgins said the two girls have been coached by Dick Caldwell, who is winning a fight against cancer, but physics teacher Mike Montgomery is taking on the job this fall.

Bindi has been on swim clubs since she was 5. She belongs to one in Kirkland, where they practice seven days a week. She started the year at MG, but went back to Grace because that’s where she’s always gone and was more comfortable there.

Because she does the IM, she said she works equally on all four strokes, but her best is the breaststroke and her worst is the back. Even though she swims a lot, Bindi said she never gets tired of it.

“Swimming can frustrate me if I don’t do well, but that just motivates me to work harder,” she said.

Two years ago she had a goal of making the Olympic trials, but now she just wants to see “how far I can go in the sport.”

For Coach Legore-Hodgins, she said this year’s squad is her “Dream Team.” Not necessarily because they are going to win all of their meets; more because they are all outstanding people.

“They are the nicest group of girls. They are all doing their homework in our yellow limo,” she said by phone as they road a school bus to Oak Harbor.

She said they are all mature and have a high I.Q.

“If you are worried about teens” just look at these girls, their coach said, adding they also have a strong moral base.

Legore-Hodgins said the team motto is Pride, Integrity, Guts.

“We’re going to give out a lot of little PIG awards this year,” she said with a smile.

Legore-Hodgins said it is kind of sad that in the other sports it’s almost encouraged to be cross-town rivals, especially since many of the kids were friends in middle school. “We need to support each other, and not just in swimming,” she said.