Caroline Beene participated in other sports before becoming year-round swimmer _lowres

Advocate file photo by LIBBY ISENHOWER -- St. Joseph's Academy's Caroline Beene: 'My mom was the one who pushed me to swim year-round and I’m glad she did. I still did the other sports a little while longer. I did like soccer. But swimming was where I felt comfortable.'

Caroline Beene played basketball, soccer and volleyball while growing up. She has two younger siblings who play either basketball or volleyball.

It’s not the background you’d expect for one of Louisiana’s top high school girls swimmers. But it suits the St. Joseph’s Academy senior, who was the Capital City Swim League’s Girls Outstanding Swimmer last fall.

“I was doing the other sports, and when I was 11 or 12, my mom suggested I try swimming summer league on a Sherwood team,” Beene said. “They told me I was good for someone just starting out, so I kept on working at it.”

The work definitely paid off. Beene has college visits to Florida State, LSU and Western Kentucky set for the fall. While fall stands for football for many, the word finish — as in finish strong — is what comes to mind for the soft-spoken Beene.

The Redstickers have an intrasquad meet scheduled for 4 p.m. Saturday at the Pennington YMCA.

Three-time defending Division I state champion SJA opens its Capital City Swim League season on Sept. 6.

“Caroline has always been fast,” SJA coach Becca Barber said. “The thing that’s amazing to me isn’t the transformation she’s made as a swimmer, it’s also about how she’s grown as a person.

“As a freshman she didn’t say much. She was extremely quiet. She was a silent weapon. Now she’s out there as a team leader. I’ve seen a different side of her this year.”

In swimming terms, Beene is somewhat of a shooting star. Many competitors take up the sport before they reach age 10. She didn’t start doing it year round until she was practically a teenager.

“My mom was the one who pushed me to swim year-round, and I’m glad she did,” Beene recalled.

“I still did the other sports a little while longer. I did like soccer. But swimming was where I felt comfortable.

Leading by example won’t be a problem for Beene. She won the Division I 50-yard freestyle in 24.05 seconds last fall. Her winning 100 free time was 52.21. She also ranked among the CCSL leaders in the backstroke. She has personal bests of 23.7 in the 50 free, 51.7 in the 100 free and 57.1 in the 100 backstroke.

“She might say butterfly is her weakest stroke,” Barber said, “but honestly she’s good enough in all four strokes to be one of the best in the league in any of them.”

Beene said she doesn’t have any specific individual goals, other than to swim fast. Barber has an eye on school and state records. SJA’s Leigh Ann King, who went on to swim at Florida State and LSU, set the Division I/composite 50 freestyle record of 23.11 in 2005. Former Texas swimmer Jaclyn Faulkner set the Division I 100 free mark of 50.67 in 2001. The composite mark of 50.33 was set by Olympian Ashley Tappin in 1991.

“I think if she stays healthy, Caroline can swim those kind of times,” Barber said.

Beene’s focus isn’t about individual accolades. She is a part of a seven-member senior class that has the chance to win state titles in each of their four high school seasons. She talks more about setting relay records as individual goals.

Team spirit and unity also is a source of pride. The SJA squad is a mix of swimmers from Baton Rouge’s two year-round programs, Crawfish Aquatics and Tiger Aquatic Club, and competitors who don’t swim year-round.

Beene, who competes for Crawfish, got a taste of the leadership role as captain of Louisiana’s Zone team that competed in San Antonio a few weeks ago.

“I like the fact that we’re loud at meets,” Beene said. “Some people don’t like that about us, but that’s a part of who we are. We’ll wear pink (along with the school color red) and cheer through the whole meet.

“This year I know I have to be one of the people out there to help the other girls on our team … to encourage them. I think all of us as seniors understand it too.”

Though swimming and taking on a leadership role aren’t things Beene was born to do, she’s ready.

“It’s our turn,” Beene said.