WILMINGTON – Taylor Shelley and Corinne Capodanno have spent much of the last 10 years looking at each other through chlorine-colored glasses, and they wouldn’t have it any other way.
The Padua seniors have been swimming with and against each other, and they have been classmates even longer. When next summer ends, they will go their separate ways for the first time since first grade. While there are times they need a break from each other, for the most part it has been a great relationship between the two friends.
“It’s kind of nice because there’s somebody else that gets it. They have your schedule, they know how hard it is, they know what you’re trying to deal with at any given point,” Shelley said.
Adds Capodanno, “It’s like a support system. It’s unspoken words to each other, looks across the room and nudging each other when we’re falling asleep in class.”
The pair should get the benefit of the doubt if they start to nod off some days. They are in the pool at 5:15 a.m. twice a week, practicing for their Brandywine YMCA team. They also practice for the Y after school every day. In addition, they have practice for Padua, which often doesn’t start until 7:30 p.m. On nights of meets, it’s not unusual for them to go until 10 p.m.
They have learned lessons beyond backstroke and freestyle.
“It’s definitely taught me about time management. I have to get my homework done in order to keep practicing and keep doing something that I love to do. It kind of made me prioritize everything and get everything done when it needed to be,” said Shelley, who attends the Church of the Holy Child.
Capodanno based a college application essay on the lessons she has learned from the sport.
“It’s taught me pretty much everything I need to know in the real world,” she said. “Like, if you don’t want to get up and go to practice, you just have to get up and deal with it and go anyway because that’s what you have to do.
“And the harder I work, the better a result I’m going to get. And that’s what swimming’s pretty much taught me.”
Meredith Griffith, their coach at the Y, said their dedication has been evident. “They are in our top training level, so the expectation is for them to be here every day. Even at that expectation level, they have the best attendance level on the team.
They are both strongly motivated and have set pretty substantial goals for themselves,” she said.
Griffith also praised the pair’s willingness to help younger swimmers at the YMCA, calling them patient teachers who set “the perfect example. The swimming is great, but it’s really not all about the swimming.”
The two met in first grade at Holy Rosary School in Claymont and got to know each other there and through swimming. Capodanno has been with the Brandywine Y for 10 years, while Shelley switched to the Y in eighth grade after having been with the Delaware Swim Team.
Capodanno is comfortable with every stroke except breast, while Shelley said butterfly is not her thing. They are also part of Padua’s defending state champion 400-yard free relay team.
Capodanno, a member of Holy Rosary Parish, was a first-team all-state selection last season, while Shelley was on the second team. Both were on the second team as sophomores. Shelley has parlayed her success into a college scholarship, having signed with Rider University in Lawrenceville, N.J.
“I probably would have done it (swimming) anyway, simply because it’s what I love to do, but it definitely paid off and it’s kind of nice to see all of the effort actually amount to something besides what you get out of it personally,” she said. “That helped out my parents a lot, and that feels nice to me that I can put in the effort to help someone else besides myself. I get enough out of it just being able to swim.”
According to Griffith, Shelley has grown “into a more confident young lady, and that’s translated into the pool. In my opinion, she’s having her best year as an athlete.”
Capodanno has attracted interest from some college coaches but has not decided where she will go next year. She likes Ursinus College in Collegeville, Pa., and Loyola University Maryland in Baltimore. Ursinus is in the NCAA’s Division III, so it cannot award athletic scholarships, while Loyola, as a member of Division I, has some grants for swimming.
Her coach said Capodanno is very eager to accept challenges and is highly competitive, which has helped her in the pool. “What she’s done over the years is understand where her strengths lie and how to use them to achieve her goals,” Griffith said.
But before suiting up at the next level, the pair is focused on Padua’s season. The Pandas defeated Tower Hill in their first meet, but they dropped a close decision to Ursuline while both Capodanno and Shelley were in Greensboro, N.C., participating for the Brandywine Y in the annual TYR Capital Classic. The team featured several of the area’s elite high school swimmers.
The pair was back in the pool for Padua’s Dec. 22 meet against St. Mark’s, and the schedule resumes Friday, Jan. 6 against Concord. They are proud of how well Padua has been able to do with just 16 girls on the team. Numbers in the sport can make a big difference.
“You can have individual success, but if the team doesn’t do well, it loses. Or you could have a bad day, but your small contribution can be the deciding factor,” Shelley said.