Nanami Campbell found a fast friend in Evie DeCarlo when she moved to the area in the sixth grade. The two colored instead of going outside for recession, forging a bond that has lasted through high school.
That friendship blossomed between the two on the Worthington Kilbourne girls swimming and diving team as mainstays of the three-time state qualifying 200 freestyle relay and two-time state qualifying 200 medley relay.
“Evie was my first friend when I moved here from Michigan,” Campbell said. “It was sixth grade and we’d color together during (recess) because we didn’t want to go outside. She went to Phoenix and I went to McCord (for middle school), so I didn’t see her for two years. Then when we met again for swimming, it was just an immediate connection. Ever since then, we’ve been super close.”
Now seniors, Campbell and DeCarlo are seeking another trip to the Division I state meet with the relays as well pursuing their own individual goals.
“Not many teammates get to experience going to the state meet three times, let alone hopefully four times,” coach Keeler Callahan said. “They just have a great relationship. They don’t bring any drama to the table. They’re there having fun (and) they don’t let the outside stuff bother them.”
As freshmen, Campbell and DeCarlo were on the 200 free relay at state along with 2019 graduate Haley Banner and 2021 graduate Lauren Richner, finishing eighth in 1 minute, 37.83 seconds.
The last two years it was Campbell, DeCarlo, Richner and junior Paige Delma advancing to state, and while the foursome didn’t reach the 200 free relay final in 2020, they also qualified in the 200 medley relay.
Last season at state, Kilbourne finished seventh (1:45.67) in the 200 medley and eighth (1:37.36) in the 200 free, which set a program record. The foursome also established the program record in the 200 medley (1:45.67) at district.
Sophomore Lily Banner was added for the OCC-Capital Division meet Jan. 29, helping the Wolves to a first-place finish in the 200 free relay (1:39.55) as Kilbourne finished third (219 points) behind Delaware (307) and Westerville North (222).
“With (Banner’s) time, it looks like we can make state,” DeCarlo said. “Our time would have made it last year, so it’s looking really good this year. Haley Banner was there when me and Nam were freshmen, so it’s fun to see her younger sister able to step up and take that spot.”
Individually at the league meet, Delma was first in the 200 individual medley (2:06.54) and 100 breaststroke (1:05.49).
DeCarlo advanced to state in the 100 free last season, tying for 21st (53.01) after setting the program record (52.41) at district.
Campbell just missed qualifying for state in her two individual events a year ago. In the 50 free, her time of 52.27 was 0.02 short of qualifying, and her time in the 100 free of 52.74 was 0.01 short.
“After that, I was so committed,” Campbell said. “I’m super motivated to go in my individual (events). The weeks leading up to (last year’s district meet), I had this mentality where I wasn’t going to get my hopes up, but I was going to try my best.
“I dropped time and I was super happy with my swims anyway. I didn’t mind not making it in my individuals because I made it in relays. But this year, I’m really putting it all in my individuals. I want to have that experience.”
There’s nobody pulling harder for Campbell than DeCarlo.
“I’m rooting for her so much,” DeCarlo said. “I want us to both make the 100 free and I want her to beat my record, honestly. I honestly think she can make it in both of her individual events this year.”
Campbell won the 100 free (53.03) and finished second in the 50 free (24.48) at the OCC-Capital meet.
“It’s exciting because it feels like I can go faster than what I did last year,” she said.
Campbell also was a standout on the girls water polo team last fall, earning all-state honors.
“Water polo definitely works (with her swimming events),” Callahan said. “It’s short bursts down the pool. It’s definitely a lot of endurance, too, but it’s those little bursts of speed that polo has that adds a little bit extra for her.”
DeCarlo was second in both the 200 free (1:56.72) and 100 breast (1:07.1) at the league meet. She’s planning on competing in the 100 free in the postseason, but is still unsure of her second individual event.
“In both events, if I can shave a couple of seconds, I might be able to make state,” DeCarlo said. “But since I did so well in both events (at the league meet), I’m still kind of stuck. Paige Delma is doing great (in the 100 breast) this year and we don’t have as many in the 200 free. So I kind of want to switch over there, so we have some more representation all around.”
Campbell is not going to swim in college, choosing a pre-med track at Cincinnati.
“Whenever I look back at swimming, it’s more about the people,” she said. “When I come to practice, it’s just so fun because the people make it fun. I love swimming with them. (My major) was another reason why I chose not to swim in college. I don’t want to stack (swimming) on top of pre-med.”
DeCarlo will compete at Northern Michigan, splitting up the duo for the first time since eighth grade.
“(Campbell) is one of my closest best friends,” DeCarlo said. “When I’m having trouble — whether it’s school problems, friend problems, swim problems — I know I can go to her and she’ll listen to me. It’s really nice to be able to lean on her and have her understand. She’s someone who I want to have (in my life) for the rest of my life.”