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.
Like Hildebrand, she was Piedmont's first and only swimmer two years ago as a freshman.
Now, Piedmont has 11 swimmers and is expected to produce two state champions this year in Rein and Connor St. John, who has the fastest time in 5A in the boys' 200-yard intermediate medley.
Rein said she owes her state titles to her mother, Oralia Rein, who also is Piedmont's swim coach.
Oralia Rein, who was working part-time in the cafeteria for the Piedmont Public Schools, persuaded the school district two years ago to start a swimming program so her daughter could compete in high school.
It wasn't an easy sell. The Reins considered transferring to another school that participated in swimming, but Kasey Rein said her mother just wouldn't take no for an answer.
“I wouldn't be able to do this if she hadn't pushed so hard for swimming,” Kasey Rein said.
Rein won 5A state titles last year in the 200-yard intermediate medley and the 100-yard backstroke.
This year, she is trading the 200 intermediate medley for the 500 freestyle, a race not only won by Hildebrand last year but one where she also set a state 5A record.
Hildebrand was state champion in the 100 butterfly and 500 freestyle last year. This year, she is trading the 500 freestyle for the 200 freestyle.
Rein and Hildebrand try to avoid having to compete against each other.
“We don't race each other,” Hildebrand said. “We want each other to succeed.”
So Hildebrand will be rooting for Rein to win the 500 freestyle Saturday. But will she be rooting for her friend to break her state record in the event?
Hildebrand answered the question diplomatically.
“I will be cheering for her to go as fast as she can,” Hildebrand said.