Earlier this month, the Carmel High School girls’ swimming and diving team extended their national record for the longest consecutive high school state championship streak to 37. At some point, a team becomes so dominant, that its most significant competition is itself.
So that made me wonder: was this year’s Carmel team the best Carmel team ever? With the number of records broken, the dominance of the margins of victory, and the stature of the swimmers involved, it sure felt like it might be.
But I wanted to break down the numbers and look at a set of criteria to see if I could evaluate their status as the GOAT among GOATs.
1. Points Scored – 498 – Most Ever
This point total was the most-ever scored by a Carmel team (or any girls’ team since the IHSAA began holding a state championship in 1974-1975). The next-closest was the 2021 team with 479 points.
Highest-scoring Carmel State Championship teams:
- 2023 – 498
- 2021 – 479
- 2022 – 461
- 2009 – 427
- 2015 – 445
- 2020 – 426.5
- 1997 – 420.5
So in this category, the 2023 team gets a ✅.
2. Winning Margin – 265
Carmel beat runners-up Fishers High School by 265 points. Thanks to Indiana keeping one of the best record books ever made, we know that this is the third-largest winning margin in history. Fishers was the runner-up in all three meets. In 2021, Carmel beat Fishers 479-200 (+279), in 2015, Carmel beat Fishers 445-179 (+266), and now in 2023, they beat Fishers 498-233 (+265).
So in this category, the 2023 team gets a ❌.
3. Event Titles Won – 10
The Carmel girls won all but two event titles at the 2023 championships. Lily Christianson from Penn High School won the 100 free in 48.59 ahead of Carmel’s Berit Berglund (49.09), Mia Prusiecki from Center Grove won the 1-meter diving event (where Carmel didn’t score).
The state’s previous record for most championships in a year belonged to the 2015 and 2016 Carmel teams, which each won 9 events. Carmel has also won 8 events on three occasions: 2009, 2011, and 2017; as did Ben Davis High in 1979.
So in this category, the 2023 team gets a ✅.
4. State Records Set (Finals) –
The 2023 team broke State Records in finals in the:
- 200 medley relay – 1:36.98
- 50 free – Alex Shackell – 21.93
- 100 fly – Alex Shackell – 50.89
- 500 free – Lynsey Bowen – 4:42.81
- 200 free relay – 1:30.23
That’s 5 events, which is one fewer than the state record. Ben Davis in 1979 and Carmel’s teams in 2014 and 2015 both broke 6 state records each in finals. Carmel had a shot at a 6th late in the meet – but Berit Berglund‘s win in the 100 back was a few tenths slower than she was at this meet last year.
So for this category, the 2023 team gets a ✅.
5. National High School Records Set – 2
The Carmel girls set National High School Records in both the 200 medley and 200 free relays. The swim in the 200 medley, a 1:36.98, which obliterated the old Fossil Ridge High School Record by more than a second. They then took half-a-second off the 2015 team’s 200 free relay record, swimming 1:30.23.
The Carmel girls didn’t set any individual records at the meet, but the margins by which they broke those relay records was outright impressive.
There aren’t good historical records of National High School Records, so it’s hard to be perfect on records broken historically – SwimSwam’s own news reports are the best source. The 2014, the team became the first to ever break all three high school relay records in the same season, and they did it again in 2015.
But that 200 medley relay was a true “wow” swim.
So for this category, the 2023 team gets a 🤷♂️
To me, the debate is down to the 2023 and 2015 teams. In 2015, Carmel only lost three events: the 100 breaststroke and 200 IM to Lilly King and the 1-meter diving to Brooke Schultz. That’s a pair of future NCAA Champions.
The 2015 Carmel team included names like Amy Bilquist, Veronica Burchill, Claire Adams, Kendall Smith, and Trude Rothrock. While none of them had really-elite college careers, Amy Bilquist won 4 relay NCAA titles and an individual silver and was on a Short Course Worlds team. Bilquist swam 48.36 in the 100 free in high school back when that was still unheard of (it was faster than Missy Franklin’s high school best).
Based on the criteria above, it’s pretty much a tie between the two teams, so maybe it will be the future that dictates the tie-breaker, and what happens to these 2023 swimmers after they leave Carmel and go on to collegiate and maybe even international careers.
For now, I’m going to take the recency bias, and that wild 200 medley relay, as the tie-breaker in favor of the 2023 team. With two of their individual wins coming from freshmen, and four more coming from sophomores, we might have this debate all over again in a few years.
Celebrating 37 years of great teams! A bit of competition is healthy, but every team past contributes to teams present and future. No need to pit girls against each other. And for the record, I’d say multiple All-American honors, in addition to academic achievements is pretty ELITE.
Veronica swam a 48.48 to lead off the 4X100 relay as a junior that same year. No bad either!!
Bolles boys 2012-2013 will always be the best!
Imagine if dressel would have went to bolles on top of swimming with their club.
how much there is recruiting in HS swimming, like how can I evaluate this accomplishment?Is Chris good coach or does he get best swimmers?
I would argue you can’t be this good without a little bit of both. I mean winning and fast swimming brings more people in, even without actively recruiting.
As a non-Carmel person, I have seen their system and know how their organization develops athletes. That being said, they have now become a destination for elite talent at a national level. They will continue being the best until someone builds a program that is better. It’s the system that is the monster and the people are just variables. Well done, Carmel!
Indiana technically doesn’t allow recruiting, but there’s a big loop hole for big schools that allows student-athletes to switch schools without sitting out a year if the new school has an academic offering that their prior school doesn’t. Since Carmel is huge, you can pretty much always find something they offer that your school doesn’t.
That being said, Camel doesn’t get a huge number of high school transfers. Most switch school systems between middle and high school, where there isn’t much regulation.
So, the majority of the “recruiting” comes from having an outstanding club team that gets age groupers from all over. Many decide they want to stay with the program through high school, so they establish themselves in Carmel… Read more »
Didn’t Shakells move there pretty much to swim there
Seems like a reasonable conclusion. Could this be extended to best all-time girls HS swim team ever – nationally? The circa 2019 Harpeth Hall team with both Walshes and Ella Nelson comes to mind.
I think you also have to look at high school rules across the nation where they differ greatly. Some states do not allow club participation, during HS season, or with a club coach. Look at some of the larger metro areas where club swimmers are dispersed across many high schools, or not even high school at all. Heck, most high school champs don’t even allow prelims/finals. Until there’s a level playing field, there can be no “best ever”.