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BOYLE SISTERS FEATURED IN ARTICLE

Check out this great article about CW age group swimmer Stephanie Boyle and her sister Michelle.  It is really great.  It was in the Sunday, Oct. 10th edition of the Ann Arbor News.

Boyle sisters bring different, but equally important, traits to Saline swim team

, October 10, 2010 3:17 p.m.

Michelle (left) and Stephanie Boyle - (Courtesy of Boyle family)

Michelle Boyle sits alone by the poolside, dipping her feet in the water. She leans over and fills her swim cap with water, then drains it out.

It is a Saturday afternoon at Saline High School, and like all the swimmers, Michelle, a freshman on the Hornets’ team, is waiting out the diving portion of the meet. The rest of her teammates sit shoulder-to-shoulder at the other end of the pool, or lay on mats on the deck.

Michelle dips her swim cap again, drains it. Then she stands up.

She claps her goggles in her hands and skips down the pool deck, carefree on the tips of her toes. She finds an open mat and lies down on her stomach next to a teammate. She is one of the girls.

A few minutes later, Michelle sees her sister, Stephanie Boyle, a senior on the team, at the other end of the pool. Michelle rises from her mat, skips the length of the pool deck, and hugs her sister.

Michelle wasn’t supposed to be in high school. Not just yet.

She is cognitively impaired, and just completed seventh grade last spring. But last April, her family was told that since she was 14 years old, she would be starting high school, not eighth grade, in the fall.

Upon hearing the news, Michelle’s mom Wendy was freaked out.

“Really freaked out,” Wendy recalls.

But Stephanie saw things differently. It meant that, for the first time in their lives, Michelle and Stephanie would attend the same school.

“It’s a dream I never thought would come true,” Stephanie says.

‘I just want to beat them’

Stephanie Boyle thrives on competition. The bigger the event, the greater the opponents, the faster she swims.

“I just want to beat them,” she says.

More often than not, Stephanie gets what she wants. She was a major contributor on Saline’s Division 1 state championship team last season, earning all-state honors in two individual events and on two relay teams. If the Hornets are to repeat this year, it’s no stretch to say Boyle will be a major reason why.

She sets lofty goals for herself. This year in the preseason, she decided she wanted to be the first-ever female All-America swimmer in Saline High School history and to swim for a Big Ten program next year.

Every morning at 5:30 a.m., Stephanie’s in the pool with her teammates, working toward that goal.

‘She brings out another side of our team’

At 5:30 a.m. Michelle Boyle - like most teenagers - is still nestled comfortably in her bed. When she awakes, she’s adorned with the same wide smile and kind eyes as her mother.

Her attitude toward swimming is much different than Stephanie’s.

Wendy laughs as she tells stories of how Michelle will flash a thumbs up while she’s in the middle of a race, or about the time during a Special Olympics track meet when she stopped during a race to wait for a friend to catch up.

“She brings another side to our team,” Stephanie says. “She’s more of the fun one. I’m the real serious swimmer and she’s the social swimmer.”

When Stephanie found out that her sister would be starting high school in the fall, she was excited about the thought of Michelle joining her on the swim team. Wendy, on the other hand, was apprehensive.

She didn’t know how well Michelle would handle the rigors of the program and wasn’t sure how she would be received by the other swimmers. But Michelle’s participation on the team, and her transition to high school couldn’t be going much better.

“As a parent, you figure it’s going to go one of two ways,” Michelle’s father Mark Boyle says of her interactions with teammates. “Either the other kids will see that she is different and they’ll avoid her, or they will embrace her. But we never expected her to be embraced as much as she has been.”

The entire swim team - not just Stephanie - has taken Michelle in, having fun with her and looking out for her. There is a family atmosphere that pervades the team —even as the highly-competitive swimmers compete and push each other.

“It’s very competitive between each other,” said Saline’s junior swimmer Nikki Flynn. “But it’s more like we’re sisters. It’s like a big family and everyone is always included.”

Now, thanks to the swim team, Michelle has a network of friends at her new school, even away from the pool. She has people to say ‘hi’ to in the hallways, and people to sit with in the cafeteria. She even attended Saline’s homecoming dance last weekend, which Michelle says was the best part of high school so far.

“The team has done an amazing job with her,” Stephanie said. “They’ve taken her in. She’s not like all the other kids, but we’re all so welcoming to her and we all help her out and cheer her on.”

The two sisters even have a class together: fashion design.

“The easiest class I take,” Stephanie says.

But Michelle has quickly developed a reputation as a better seamstress than her older sister.

One day in class, Stephanie’s sewing machine broke down while she was operating it. Confounded by the machinations and the tangled spool of thread, she became frustrated.

Flustered, Stephanie looked up from the tangled mess and noticed Michelle. She was watching her older sister and laughing at her.

Different races

Near midseason this year, Stephanie and Michelle’s freestyle times were fairly comparable — somewhere in the neighborhood of 55 seconds. Only Michelle’s time was for 50 yards, Stephanie’s for 100.

But on a team full of swimmers who feel more like sisters, the Boyles each bring something valuable and unique to the squad.

Stephanie’s contribution is obvious and can be measured in points and first-place medals. Michelle’s impact is a less tangible, but significant nonetheless.

Mark and Wendy say that perhaps the most gratifying thing about having Michelle on the team is when other parents approach to say how beneficial Michelle’s role on the team has been for their own daughters.

So while the surprise news of Michelle’s early entry into high school was originally a cause for concern, Mark and Wendy now view it as a blessing. Not only for their own family, but for the entire swimming community.

While Mark and Wendy have grown accustomed to cheering for Stephanie’s races to be over as quickly as possible, they sit back and savor every second of Michelle’s in the pool with no regard for the clock.

And When Michelle swims the freestyle, she doesn’t have classic, powerful form that Stephanie does. Her arms come high up out of the water like a windmill up over her head.

It’s almost as though she’s waving to everyone in the stands.

Bison Collins Messink is a sports writer for AnnArbor.com and can be reached at bisonmessink@annarbor.com.