After a painful junior season, Chesterton senior Meaghan McLaughlin is truly looking forward to her final year as a prep swimmer.
McLaughlin built up an impressive resume throughout her first three seasons. She's the two-time defending sectional champion in both the 200-yard individual medley and 100 butterfly. She's helped set sectional records in both the 200 medley relay and 400 free relay. At state, she's competed in at least three events each season. She helped the Trojans break the school record in the 200 medley relay (1 minute, 46.47 seconds) as the squad finished fourth in the event last season.
The striking thing is those junior marks were intertwined between a pair of illnesses and a possible career-ending arm injury.
"There were team expectations," she said, "and I wanted to push through and help.
"Last year was filled with a lot of pain. At times, it was hard to sit back and watch."
The beginning of McLaughlin's season was interrupted with a flu-like virus. During the week leading up the state meet, McLaughlin was hampered by a severe cold.
The main roadblock dealt with severe shoulder pain, especially in her left arm. Doctors diagnosed that there was a strength imbalance between McLaughlin's arms and her back. McLaughlin had stressed more weight training time on her front. The tendons and ligaments in the back were being stretched forward.
"Doctors said I might have to stop swimming. That was devastating," said McLaughlin, who started swimming when she was 5 years old. "I've had so many great memories. Swimming's my life. It's like someone was saying that my life needed to end."
Instead of surgery, she began many preventative measures with heat and ice after workouts. After the season ended, she took two months off from the sport. She also began doing more weight work on her back to relieve the stress on the tendons and ligaments due to the muscle imbalance.
McLaughlin is energized for this season. She looks to improve on her best individual finish at state, 14th in the 200 IM as a sophomore.
"I want to make this season memorable," she said. "I feel like I'm where I need to be."
McLaughlin is now needed as a leader on the squad.
"I think our kids know that at some point they have to up and become a leader," Chesterton coach Kevin Kinel said. "The torch has been passed. She has experiences to pass on."
One of them is her junior ordeal.
"Freshmen come up to me and talk about their pain, and I'm able to help them understand the difference," McLaughlin said. "I also help out in the weight room. I'm more aware now of proper weight use, and I'm willing to help out. If I can avoid it, I don't want anyone else to go through what I did."