Kasey Rein of Piedmont and Jessi Hildebrand of Newcastle are state champion swimmers and best friends, even though they attend different high schools.
Both are juniors and each won two Class 5A state swimming championships last year. They are each favored to add two more state titles at the Oklahoma State Swimming Championships being held Friday and Saturday at the Jenks Aquatic Center.
Both were the first swimmers ever at their schools as freshmen. Hildebrand won the 5A state title in the 500-yard freestyle as a freshman and set a state record.
For two years, Hildebrand was Newcastle's only swimmer. She finally got one teammate this year but the girl didn't qualify for the state, so Hildebrand once again will be a Lone Ranger in Jenks.
“I am just kind of an orphan,” Hildebrand said. “I really don't have a team.”
Both Hildebrand and Rein are members of the Chesapeake Swim Club and participate in club meets where they admit the competition is much stiffer than in Class 5A high school events.
Their high schools are really just the vehicle for Hildebrand and Rein to compete in high school swimming. The bulk of their coaching and training is through the Chesapeake Swim Club and it is year-round.
“We practice so hard and so long,” Hildebrand said. “I think that is why we are really close. We understand what each other is going through.”
Because Newcastle doesn't have a swim team, during the regular high school season Hildebrand must compete in the same meets as Norman and Norman North, the school district with swim teams closest to Newcastle.
Hildebrand is not allowed to swim in the two Norman schools' conference championship meet because Newcastle is not a member of their conference.
Piedmont, however, is a member of a conference where other schools have swimming programs. Rein has been the Suburban Conference's outstanding female swimmer for the past three years.