Marvin Ridge head swim coach Melissa King-Pierce wanted to make sure her team was ready for the 3A state championship meet.
On the team bus ride to the state finals in Cary, she reminded her team how big the moment would be at the Feb. 14 meet, specifically addressing the focus it would take for the Mavericks girls’ team to repeat as 3A state champions.
King-Pierce knew the state championship would be “a whole different challenge” for the Mavericks, who were coming off a third-straight undefeated regular season and a 3A West Regional championship.
“I was mainly talking to the freshmen who hadn’t been to the state meet, and telling them, ‘This is when it gets really serious and don’t take the moment for granted,’” said King-Pierce, whose only girls’ swimming loss in three seasons as the Marvin Ridge head coach was a runner-up finish in the 2013 3A state finals to Charlotte Catholic. “I also told the team that I felt like some of our upperclassmen and best swimmers had taken it for granted. I wasn’t trying to single anyone out, but that is when Caroline Hauder spoke up.”
Hauder, a 5-foot-11 sophomore, stood up in front of the entire team to admit the mistakes she made as a freshman.
“I remember going to the state meet last year and thinking it wasn’t a big deal, and it wasn’t until preliminaries that I realized, ‘Oh, this is a big deal and I’ve got some real competition here,” said Hauder, who finished as 3A state runner-up in the 100 backstroke and finished third in the 200 individual medley last year. “The energy at states is tremendous and everyone takes it to a whole different level. It was a learning curve and learning experience for me.
“I wanted the freshmen to know that and not make the same mistakes I did.”
This time Hauder, 15, rose to the occasion, winning individual state titles in the 100-yard backstroke and the 100 breaststroke and helping the 400 freestyle relay team (with Alex Bonfilio, Abby House and Samantha Bitter) to another state crown. She was named the meet’s most outstanding swimmer.
Hauder was more proud of what her team accomplished. The Mavericks won five of the 12 events, beating the field by 126 points to win their second straight 3A state team title.
“I knew going in that I was going to have to swim back to back races, and have like five minutes between the time I dove (in) for the first race until the time I would dive in for the second race and it was all kinds of stressful,” Hauder said. “But I just had the mindset that I was going to go in and do everything for my team. The whole MVP thing kind of surprised me. We were all celebrating after winning the state and all of the sudden, people were saying, ‘Caroline, go up there. Caroline, go up there,’ and they called my name out for MVP.
“The way I look at it, is that it is more of a team award and another moment for our team. I was just happy to do what I could to help Marvin Ridge win a state championship.”
“You could tell Caroline just wanted it this year,” said King-Pierce. “She came in with a totally different level of focus and showed exactly what she is capable of doing.”
Marvin Ridge dominated from start to finish, collecting 51 points in diving the night before the swim meet. Sophomore Nikki Canale (state record 491 points) and senior Sara Maleski finished first and second, respectively, in 1-meter diving.
The Mavericks had five individual state titles, three runner-up finishes, two third-place finishes and one fourth, making the podium (top four) in all but one event, the 500 freestyle.
While the championship run gives the Mavericks confidence that they can win a third straight title in 2016, Hauder says they won’t get comfortable.
“I don’t think you ever want to get comfortable with what you accomplish, because there’s always that next thing,” Hauder said. “We want to keep putting all the hours of hard work in the pool and keep winning championships.”
For Hauder there is no offseason. She swims year-round for SwimMAC Carolinas club team. Hauder says working with swimmers that she looks up to, like Charlotte Catholic’s Nora McCullagh, a Texas signee and three-time 4A state meet most outstanding swimmer, inspires her to be focused on getting faster.
She hopes to be fast enough to qualify for the U.S. Olympic Trials in 2016, and begins that quest in March at a meet in Indianapolis.
“Nora was in my lane at practice (Feb. 23) and she came over to congratulate me (on the state championship performance) and said, ‘Caroline, I could see you in Austin (University of Texas),” said Hauder. “To have someone like Nora, who I look up to, say something like that to me is amazing and motivates me even further. …
“All of what I have accomplished to this point is what drives me as a swimmer, to see what else I can do. All of this has opened my eyes to even more opportunities to keep growing as a person and as a swimmer.”
Jay Edwards is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Jay? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.