Endurance sports such as swimming are all about training and timing. An athlete pushes themselves through the season and then has to hold back in training at the end of the year to be well rested and have the ability to put together the best race possible at the end of the season. The training this year for Lakeland Union High School senior Carolyn Kelk was spot-on as she not only put in the two fastest swims of her season Friday at the state meet, but she came home with a medal as well. Kelk took sixth overall with a new personal best of 53.81 in the 100 freestyle to claim the state medal. “I don’t even know how to describe it,” Kelk said. “I have been thinking about it all week long. I left it all out there for my final race. It feels awesome.” The Lakeland senior not only claimed a medal but she did so in a very fast field that set a new state record. Kristin Malone of Shorewood won the event in a state record time of 50.28 and that set the tone for the entire race and an exciting finish for Kelk. From the start, the race looked like any of the eight girls in the final heat would have a shot at the medal as they all swam a very close 25 yards. But a close race was something for which Kelk had prepared herself. “After sectionals, I saw that I was tied for seventh place but the sixth place swimmer was only a couple of tenths of second ahead of me,” Kelk said. “I knew if I swam the race at I wanted, I could get into sixth.” With that motivation, Kelk kept up with the lead through the 50-yard turn. While Malone eventually pulled away, the battle for those final few medal spots heated up as the girls churned the water through the 75-yard turn and headed for the final wall. Kelk managed to touch the wall .05 ahead of the seventh place girl to earn the sixth place medal. Not only did Kelk have the race of her life in the 100, less than an hour earlier, she collected a personal best time in the 200 freestyle. Kelk took tenth in that event with a time of 1:59.63. She came into the event as the 16 seed after a sectional race where she was slowed by illness. “I was really pleased with my 200 time,” Kelk said. “Especially after the race I had at sectional. It felt good to come out here and put in a good race.” Her performance at state had more than individual ramifications for the Lakeland swim team. The state medal seemed a fitting end to what was a magical season where the Thunderbirds went unbeaten through the regular season, earned a conference title and a fourth place finish at sectional. Kelk said she could think of no better way for her senior season to end than the events of the last month. “It is just amazing,” she said. “Every single thing we worked for this season. We set a goal to win conference and we did and then let’s go on to sectional and we did great there. So this is just a great way to end my senior season.” Bryan Rose may be reached via email at email@example.com.