In the end, Cathleen Pruden accomplished what she set out to do.
She helped lead her Ravenscroft girls’ swim team to its first Triangle Independent Schools Athletic Conference championship in three years, she was named the 2012 girls TISAC Swimmer of the Year, and she swam for a bronze medal in the state championships of the N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association.
“I am definitely happy. The state championships were very exciting,” Pruden said. “We were ahead, and we were winning by 25 points, but Forsyth Country Day and Charlotte Latin caught up and passed us, and that was a little disappointing.”
The Ravens finished third overall in the NCISAA girls 3A state championships on Feb. 21 in Greensboro. Forsyth Country Day in Winston-Salem won with 251 points. Charlotte Latin was second with 247 points, and Ravenscroft scored 232.
Pruden, who finished third in the 500-yard freestyle, is one of a handful of seniors who watched Cary Academy break a long-running Ravens swimming dynasty four years ago and go on to win the conference title three years in a row.
“The girls who had watched Cary win the conference championship for three years wanted to win it back for Ravenscroft,” said Ravens coach Greg Warren. “They had determination. They really wanted it, and they were very motivated.”
The coach and team were rewarded for their determination and hard work when they claimed the conference title Feb.7.
A week before taking his team to the state championships, Warren predicted the road would not be easy, even for a team of scrappy swimmers with a conference championship under their belts.
“It is going to be tough,” he said. “We definitely are contenders for the top five, and even the top three is a possibility.”
Turned out, the top three was a reality.
Sophomore Claire Fuscoe also earned points for Ravenscroft on the strength of a third-place finish in the 100 freestyle at the state championships.
Fuscoe and Pruden teamed up with Madeline High and Chloe Mikels to clinch third in the 400 relay, too.
An endurance athlete, Fuscoe swims the mile with her WAVE year-round swim club.
“The mile makes swimming the 500 in high school seem not so hard,” she said.
Fuscoe and Pruden agree there is no secret to being a great swimmer.
“You have to do a lot of yardage, and spend a lot of time in the pool,” Pruden said.
Spending time in the pool is a way of life for the two young swimmers. As teammates with the WAVE program, they swim 12 hours a week at Optimist Pool in North Raleigh and spend three days training with weights.
Fuscoe sometimes asks herself why she works so hard, and Pruden even quit briefly.
“I told my mom that I was quitting, and I did,” she said. “But after three days I missed it so much, I went back.”
She’s glad she did.
For Pruden, swimming is about dedication and learning to stick with a goal, even through tough times. “Swimming also teaches me to believe in myself and to be mentally strong,” she said.
Even though the girls spend most of their time practicing and swimming with WAVE, they love competing for Ravenscroft.
“It’s all about representing your school,” Pruden explained. “In high school, you have a strong drive to win for your school, and beating the other high schools.”
Pruden also enjoys mentoring her younger Ravenscroft teammates.
“Our seventh- and eighth-graders look up to the older swimmers,” she said. “I make sure the younger swimmers don’t get overwhelmed. I show them I care and I try to give them advice.”
Fuscoe appreciates that.
“Cathleen keeps me on track. I depend on her to help me develop self-confidence,” Fuscoe said. “I hope to do that for younger kids when I am older. Boost their confidence and tell them ‘you can do it.’ ”
When Pruden crossed the finish line for the last time as a Ravenscroft swimmer, the feeling was bittersweet.
“It is sad to end high school swimming, but I am glad I went out on a high note,” she said.
Fuscoe hopes her best days are yet to come.
She has started running cross country and loves that it helps improve her endurance. She feels good about herself. She’s physically fit. She has learned how to manage her time, and she can see how hard work pays off.
“Swimming is such a big part of my life,” Fuscoe said. “And I have learned that when push comes to shove, you just put your head down and race.”
The players are among 40 16-year-old prospects who will travel to Ann Arbor, Mich., next month for the hockey camp. The program’s goal is to prepare student-athletes under the age of 18 for participation on U.S. National Teams and success in their future hockey careers.