CHAMPAIGN — As Reed Broaders and Sally Ma sat alongside one of the pools at Indian Acres Swim Club on Wednesday — where they’ll undertake Uni High girls’ swimming and diving practices later this month — two items became clear.
The rising junior and rising sophomore can’t stop thinking about what they might do in Year 2 as prep teammates.
And the standout swimmers, juxtaposing their strenuous sport of choice, greatly enjoy sweets.
“I really like Twix and Kit Kat,” said Ma, referencing two chocolate candies.
“I don’t eat candy that much,” Broaders countered. “I really like cake.”
“True,” Ma responded, a hint of cake-based desire in her voice. “Ice cream cake is so good.”
But then, a crack in their dessert foundation.
“Peeps are my favorite,” Broaders said of the marshmallow treats.
“Ew! Disgusting,” Ma retorted.
“Those are good. I love those.”
“Those are pure sugar.”
Perhaps Broaders and Ma can snag some of their top picks after the USA Swimming Futures Championships, a club meet which concludes today in Des Moines, Iowa.
In an ideal world, Broaders would take a slice of key lime pie. Ma opts for local flair with Jarling’s Custard Cup.
With all this talk about stereotypically unhealthy foods, it can be easy to forget just how good Broaders and Ma were last swim season as a sophomore and freshman, respectively, with the Illineks.
Broaders is The News-Gazette’s defending All-Area Athlete of the Year after collecting seventh place in the state 100-yard butterfly and 11th in the 100 backstroke during the 2018 season.
“I knew Reed was already very fast,” said Ma, who has been swimming competitively since age 6 or 7. “Especially at fly and backstroke. I was kind of intimidated before, but once I got to know her, I was like, ‘She’s great.’”
Ma stormed on to the high school scene with a 10th-place state effort in the 50 freestyle en route to N-G All-Area first-team status.
And both Broaders and Ma accepted legs on state-advancing 200 and 400 freestyle relay units.
“I swam against her and she was really, really good,” Broaders said. “Then she got into Uni, and I was like, ‘Oh, I’m going to have a great teammate and our relays (are) going to be really good.’”
Considering how close in age these two are, and how well they’re already faring during the beginning of their high school careers, it’d make sense if some tension formed at practices and meets.
That’s not something Illineks coach Dave Young has to worry about when it comes to these two cornerstones for Uni High.
“It’s laid-back for us,” Broaders said. “If she goes faster than me in practices, it’s just like, ‘Oh, that’s another goal that I can use toward the future.’”
“I realized that we were just there for each other, to support each other,” Ma added. “Just that connection really made us feel closer.”
Uni High placed second in last year’s Centennial Sectional, 10 points behind the host school. This was largely because of six event wins one or both of Broaders and Ma had a hand in.
That reality, combined with success at the 2018 state meet, has both girls pumped for what could be on the horizon when Uni High’s season opens Aug. 31 with an outdoor meet at Indian Acres.
“We’re just so excited for the season,” Ma said. “We talk about it so much, almost like ...”
“Every day,” the two then said simultaneously.
Even so, Broaders said she isn’t setting any specific goals. She feels those might limit her potential output.
Ma agrees with that sentiment, but does have one mission.
“I just want to get more sleep this year,” she said with a laugh. “Last year, I overstressed myself over nothing.”