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HIGHLAND — Lake Central junior Maggie DePirro couldn’t believe it.

She was 10 years old and swimming in the state championships for her age-group club in Indianapolis. Here she was, returning to the hotel after winning the 100 butterfly and the older girls like 2014 graduate Tracilyn Muszalski, 2015 graduate Hailey Garlich and 2016 graduate Victoria Springman were waiting to congratulate her.

“I just remember them being like, ‘You swam so great!’” DePirro said, laughing.

The girls she looked up to weren’t just talking to her — they knew who she was.

That was worth celebrating.

“I was like, ‘Oh my god. This is real. They know who I am,’” DePirro continued. “That was amazing.”

And DePirro was hooked.

Fast-forward half a dozen years and DePirro now stands as a decorated high school veteran swimmer just as the girls she looked up to once did. She’s eying a return trip to the IHSAA state finals after finishing 26th in the 100 fly a season ago and hasn’t forgotten to pass along what she can as a leader among the Indians in the pool.

“As far as the team dynamic, Maggie’s a pretty vocal person and she’s motivating,” Lake Central head coach Todd Smolinski said. “She’ll try and motivate the kids and motivate our team as much as she can. She’s a good team player. When it comes down to it, Maggie’s here for the team. She’s there for the girls.”

DePirro takes care of herself, too. The results speak for themselves.

She claimed the 100 fly title at the Highland Invitational on Saturday and looks to build momentum toward another run at state down the stretch of the season. Her preliminary time of 58.87 seconds last spring wasn’t enough to get her into the finals but the trip did reveal firsthand what it’ll take to get to the top.

That, DePirro said, helped her visualize a blueprint to follow this year and beyond.

“There’s always going to be someone better than you are so it’s important to soak up all the information you can,” DePirro said. “Even though I didn’t make the finals last year, I tried to take away everything that I could. It’s motivating to see what those other girls did and helped me prepare for this year.”

DePirro is a specialist of sorts in the fly. She finished third in the 200 individual medley at sectionals as a sophomore but admits she’s significantly more comfortable as a flyer.

There’s something about the stroke technique that she said clicked when she was young and hasn’t left her since.

“She’s really one of the top flyers in the Region right now,” Smolinski said. “She trains hard. She works for it. Every day in the pool she gets in and she cranks it out. She’s put herself where she’s at now because of the hard work and effort she puts into practices.”

DePirro figures she’s most likely to shave time off the stopwatch in the underwater portion of her fly so she’s focused her efforts there. She said she’s seen preliminary results but that she’ll have a better sense of her speed in the coming weeks.

It all builds to a run at state, which DePirro is keen to make. Last year’s taste was enough to make her eager to set the table for a return so she can follow in the footsteps of the girls that inspired her to get there.

“Every practice you hope to get closer,” she said. “I’m definitely more confident going into it all this year and am excited for the rest of the year.”

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