Photo provided
SPECIAL SEASON: Rachel Sanqunetti is lined up to swim the 400 freestyle relay, the 200 freestyle, the 100 backstroke and the 200 medley relay at conference Saturday. That’ll most likely be the events she swims at sectionals, too.
Photo provided SPECIAL SEASON: Rachel Sanqunetti is lined up to swim the 400 freestyle relay, the 200 freestyle, the 100 backstroke and the 200 medley relay at conference Saturday. That’ll most likely be the events she swims at sectionals, too.
It’s been almost two seasons since Rachel Sanqunetti tasted defeat in an individual swimming event.

In 36 races this year, the Hamilton Heights junior has finished first 35 times. The other race — a 200 medley relay — her team came in second. As a sophomore, Sanqunetti went a perfect 37-0 in the regular season.

“She’s by far the best girls swimmer we’ve ever had,” said Height swim head coach Sue Beale, who’s been with the program for five years. “Her work ethic — it’s to die for … She doesn’t miss practice, she doesn’t skip sets … she’s always at work.”

While Sanqunetti knows the streak she’s on, she doesn’t give it too much thought. The only moments it even comes to mind is when a teacher says something in class or another student mentions it in passing.

The recognition is appreciated, Sanqunetti said — It’s nice to know people notice all the hard work she and the rest of the Huskies swim team puts in.

She makes sure to include her teammates when we talk about her individual success. The Huskies girls swim team is a perfect 8-0 this season — they’re also the defending Hoosier Conference champions. Even when I ask her about going into the Hoosier meet at Purdue this Saturday with an undefeated conference record on the line, she circles the conversation from herself to those who swim alongside her.

“Everyone is working really hard, and it shows in the meets,” she said “When we win, it’s really exciting, because we know we all pitched in and did it together.”

During Sanqunetti’s freshman season, she finished tenths of a second off from breaking the school’s 100 butterfly record. She set the record as a sophomore. She also holds Heights’ records in the 100 backstroke, the 200 individual medley and 200 medley relay.

While she hasn’t set any new records this season — she jokes that she’s slacking — Sanqunetti did earn her 100th career win during the Huskies third meet of the year.

“When you can only swim four events each meet, and there’s only like 16 meets, that’s pretty much winning every single event you’ve ever swam,” Beale said. “This girl — you put her in a relay - and she’ll die before she lets that relay lose.”

Beale used to attend Sanqunetti’s middle-school meets, she said, and marvel at her aptitude. “I was just thrilled. When you have somebody with that much talent, you can put them anywhere.”

Sanqunetti didn’t start swimming until the sixth grade, when a friend told her she thought she’d might enjoy it. By the time she graduated from Hamilton Heights Middle School, she held all but one of the school’s swim records.

The biggest change to Sanqunetti’s approach this season, though, didn’t involve technique, or watching the clock, she said. It’s been about remembering why she swims — because she loves it. “It’s so easy to get caught up in everything that you can forget to have fun with it, too,” she said. “For a couple years, I’ve only focused on cuts and times and certain meets that I’ve wanted to make it to. When you get like that, it can be really easy to forget why you’re really swimming. I’ve kind of gotten back to that this year … I think that’s going to help me when it comes to these big meets. I swim better when I’m having fun.”

Sanqunetti is lined up to swim the 400 freestyle relay, the 200 freestyle, the 100 backstroke and the 200 medley relay at conference Saturday. That’ll most likely be the events she swims at sectionals, too, assistant coach Justin Davis said.

Despite her immaculate career, Sanqunetti won’t be one of the favorites to win at sectionals and qualify for State. That’s what happens when Carmel is in your sectional, Beale said. But her coach is going to do everything she can to help Sanqunetti achieve her goal for the first time.

“We’ve got to get her (to State),” Beale said. “I know that it’s so important to her that it breaks my heart that she doesn’t get there … It’s just a tough thing to do the way it’s set up.”

A swimmer can qualify for State in one of three ways: win your event at sectionals, make a state cut or hope to be what’s referred to as a “call-back.”

With 24 sectionals throughout the state, that already reduces the number of slots per event from 32 to eight. State cuts, which Carmel usually takes at least two or three, shrinks the list even thinner. If there’s any space after that, officials will select the fastest times from every swimmer in the state.

“She’s pretty much looking for a call-back,” Beale said. “We’ve looked at other sectionals, and if she was in 16 or so of them, she would go to state. … She would have been at state as a freshman.”

Beale said she’s proud of everything Sanqunetti has accomplished — no matter the outcomes over these next couple weeks — and she still has a year of high school remaining. Heights will lose 13 seniors at the end of this season, but Beale will still have Sanqunetti to lean on.

“I thing she’s taken a week off in all of the years I’ve known her,” Beale said. “I think she just loves being in the water — she looks beautiful in it.”