All of the hard luck that Jessie Fraley and Ali Terrell had endured over the past few weeks didn’t seem to matter on Saturday afternoon.
Posing for pictures with the team runner-up trophy on the deck of the IU Natatorium, the two Franklin seniors were beaming as if every worry in the world had vanished.
When Fraley, Terrell, Scarlet Friend and Carla Gildersleeve were eighth-graders, the Grizzly Cub girls didn’t score a single point at the state swimming and diving meet. They registered a 14th-place finish when that group came in as freshmen.
Four years later, the quartet went out in grand fashion, helping Franklin edge a gaggle of contenders for second place overall behind 33-time state champion Carmel.
“When I was coming in as a freshman, I never thought we could do this, and I never even had an idea of what to expect,” Terrell said. “But it’s awesome ending this this way as a senior, leaving like this.”
The finish was particularly gratifying for Terrell, who was just a week removed from perhaps the most trying day of her high school career.
A mainstay on the state stage, having scored in both the 200-yard individual medley and the 100-yard breaststroke in each of her first three seasons, Terrell failed to advance past the sectional round as an individual this time, just missing the cutoff in IM and the butterfly.
She bounced back in her lone race on Saturday, helping the Grizzly Cubs start the meet with a second-place finish in the 200 medley relay. After that, she could only stand poolside and cheer on her teammates — an experience that proved more enjoyable, and more exhilarating, than she might have imagined beforehand.
“Obviously, I didn’t have the week last week that I wanted to, but coming here and seeing what everyone else could do and cheering them on was so much fun,” Terrell said. “To keep looking at MeetMobile, the team, and just keep looking at the scores all throughout the meet — it was scary, it was nerve-wracking, but it all worked out.”
The day was similarly bittersweet for Fraley, who had led off Franklin’s second-place medley relay team as a junior and scored in multiple individual events only to have her senior season cut short by shoulder surgery.
Bittersweet as Saturday might have been, Fraley couldn’t help but be happy with the end result.
“Of course it was sad for me,” she said, “but just being here with my team and us progressing so much is everything.”
Progressing doesn’t begin to capture what this senior class accomplished. The Grizzly Cubs were invisible to the rest of the state four years ago, and they had never registered a top-10 finish at the state meet before breaking through to take fourth last February.
They went out like champions on Saturday, finishing only behind the top public school program in the country.
“It’s really satisfying,” said Gildersleeve, who placed second in the 100 butterfly and fifth in the 200 individual medley. “We kind of had the idea at the beginning of the season that we could do this, but it’s really crazy to see it actually happen.”
The four seniors will head their separate ways from here, with all of them suiting up for Division I college teams next year — Gildersleeve at Indiana, Terrell at Purdue, Fraley at Ball State and Friend at Air Force.
Their final high school meet together — for all of the bumps in the road on the way there — ended exactly as they had all hoped it would.
Now it’s up to the classes behind them to live up to the expectations they’ve spent the past four years raising.