TAMPA — Before every 100-yard breaststroke event, Shae Timmons, Alex Nuyianes and Margret Shumake walk to the starting blocks together. Once there, they help each other put on their swim caps and calm each other down as they await their heat.
It’s the ultimate paradox of the sport in which they compete; all three Academy of the Holy Names swimmers want to touch the wall first, but the opponent isn’t just a stranger from another school. It’s also a teammate.
That scenario will be played out at the highest level of competition Saturday, when Timmons, Nuyianes and Shumake — seeded third, fourth and fifth, respectively, in the 100 breast — have the potential to make up almost half of the final heat at the Class 2A state meet in Stuart.
“You just have to be able to get in your own zone and swim your own race in the end before you dive off the blocks,” said Timmons, AHN’s record holder in the event. “As long as you can do that, I think it’s fine that you’re still thinking about your other teammates.”
Holy Names has at least one entry in 10 of 11 girls swimming events. The 16 individual event entries are the most the Jaguars have had at the state meet under coach Bill Shaffer.
Timmons’ No. 3 seed is the highest for the Jaguars. But, as Shaffer points out, it’s not necessarily the team with the highest finishes that takes home a championship, it’s the team with the most in the top eight.
“You can win an event and get 20 points. If I come in and get seventh and eighth, I’m getting 33 points,” he said. “Depth is paramount when you’re talking about a team trophy.”
Event 21 says everything about the stacked Jaguars. Timmons’ (1:07.10), Nuyianes’ (1:07.48) and Shumake’s (1:07.93) seed times in the 100 breast are within nine-tenths of a second of each other. Last season, Timmons and Shumake finished in consecutive order, ninth and 10th, at state.
Though she agrees with Timmons that staying focused on your own race is crucial to being successful, Shumake admits swimming beside a teammate does have its advantages.
“When you do train with each other, you sort of know where you’re supposed to be (in a race),” Shumake said. “ ‘Oh, she’s there, that’s where my pace should be.’ ”
Because the preliminaries Saturday morning will be circle-seeded, Timmons, Nuyianes and Shumake will likely swim in different heats for the first round of competition. Should they all post top-eight times, as expected, they’ll compete perhaps just feet from each other in the final heat of the event Saturday evening.
It’s their own swims, their own times, that could earn any of the three girls a spot on the podium when all is said and done. Still, Timmons and Shumake can’t help but think about what it will be like to stare at the highest level of competition and have friendly faces look back.
“Looking across and seeing all those Academy girls is kind of just surreal,” Shumake said. “Like, ‘Oh my gosh, we’re all in this together.’ ”
When: Class A, Friday; Class 2A, Saturday. Prelims start at 9 a.m., diving at 1:30 and finals at 5:30.
Where: Sailfish Splash Waterpark Aquatic Athletics Center, Stuart