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Shelbyville's speed demon prepping for fastest race of her life

Karissa Hamilton has a “need for speed.”

The Shelbyville senior believes one-tenth of one second faster will be enough to get her past the preliminary heats of the Indiana High School Athletic Association State Swimming and Diving Championships.

Hamilton will swim twice Friday night at the Indiana University Natatorium in Indianapolis courtesy of her sectional championship performances Monday at New Palestine.

She is the 19th seed in her best event – the 50-yard freestyle – and the 26th seed in the 100 freestyle. Hamilton won the 50 freestyle Monday in a school record time of 24.27 seconds. Her winning 100 freestyle time also broke her own school record.

The goal Friday is to get into the top 16. To do so means Hamilton will have to go faster than she ever has before.

“It is very hard to drop time in the sprints, especially in the 50,” said Hamilton Wednesday afternoon before training. “One little mistake and everything can go wrong. You can’t take a lot of breaths because breaths slow you down. You have to have that grit and the fastest flip turn ever.”

The 50 freestyle is a pure sprint – one trip down the pool and back.

“It will be interesting to see. In the 50, anything can happen. It’s a crazy race,” said Shelbyville swim coach Coen Weiler. “It will be really interesting to see what everybody else in that heat has left, along with her.”

The 50 free is the fourth event Friday and Hamilton is in the fourth and final heat of the event in lane one.

“I am just going to have to have that mindset that I can do this,” said Hamilton, who holds three individual program records at SHS and is part of all three relay school records. “I can’t worry about who is swimming around me and be in the moment.”

The fourth heat Friday is fast. Six of Hamilton’s seven competitors posted faster sectional times, including the defending state champion and top qualifier – Penn sophomore Lillian Christianson (22.85).

“She only lost this race one time this year and, for the most part, she hasn’t really had a race,” said Weiler. “You win by .8 seconds at the sectional in the 50, that’s not really much of a race. It may look that way, but it’s not.

“This will be her first time going in as an underdog in the race and having to chase people down. And goodness knows she loves to chase.”

Catching Christianson is not realistic, but finishing somewhere in the middle of a heat that includes five swimmers that have been under 23 seconds this season is key.

“She set the (school) record as a sophomore on a random Tuesday (in 2020) and then didn’t touch it again until the sectional this year,” said Weiler. “I do think there is more in her. I think she got really close to breaking 24 (seconds) in her relay split the other day (in the 200 freestyle relay sectional race), so that made it a little bit more feasible for her in her mind.”

Shelbyville’s 200 freestyle relay team finished second Monday with Hamilton swimming the anchor leg in 24.07 seconds.



Weiler expects to know within minutes whether Hamilton gets to return Saturday for the consolation swim ahead of the state championship heat.

If she does not make the cut, the 100 freestyle, event six, will be her last swim as a Golden Bear and her last competitive race.

“I don’t really want to think about it being my last one because that will make me emotional,” said Hamilton.

Hamilton’s future is in softball. She is already committed to play at the University of Kentucky.

Seven years ago, she took a shot at swimming in middle school under the program’s new head coach, Coen Weiler.

“I wanted to try something different,” said Hamilton, who played basketball in elementary school. “The swim team had a new coach … Weiler came rolling in my sixth grade year. So I stuck with it. It’s a really good conditioning sport, it keeps me in shape for softball. And it’s really fun.”

Now a senior, she will make her third state finals trip Friday.

As a freshman in 2019, she was part of Shelbyville’s 200 medley relay team that swam at the natatorium. That quartet included her older sister, Elliana, current senior Marlee Rice, and Fishers senior Grace Lux, who moved away after her sophomore year.

Lux, now committed to swim at Purdue University, will swim Friday for Fishers in the 200 medley relay and 100 breaststroke – her best event.

Hamilton returned to the state finals in 2021, competing in the 50 freestyle and 200 freestyle relay with Rice, Addisenn Weaver and Miriam Garringer.

Despite the fact that she is a nationally-ranked softball player, Weiler never saw Hamilton miss a swim commitment. He believes she could just as easily swim at the University of Kentucky rather than play softball.

“(My swim career) means the world to me,” she said. “I am just very thankful for all these seven years and all the experiences. I went to state my freshman year with my sister, so I got to experience that. That was a butt-kicking year. My sophomore year, I got to experience Marlee going to state and Grace going to state. My junior year, I got to go to state in the 50 and the 200 freestyle relay.

“Along the way, my team, every year feels like family. I love all of them. And you meet so many people at other schools too. I am thankful for the whole experience.”