Listen up, this is chemistry 101.
What do Sterling seniors Charli Wike and Keaton Dir, and Newman's Warren Melton all have in common?
Chlorine. Lots of chlorine.
The three have spent nearly 15 years damaging their hair and smelling like a waterpark after spending hours each day motoring the distance of pools and back again. They all met through the sport as each started with the Sterling Stingrays club team at 4 years old and became quick friends.
The friendship continued through high school, and the closeness of Melton and Dir made for friendly rivalries at meets. All three would make up for lost time in the offseason with the Stingrays.
"We're kind of like the Three Amigos," Melton said. "We've all been swimming together forever.
"It was a little bit different at the beginning of high school when I wasn't with them anymore and now it's a whole different journey."
On April 15, the trio each committed to different colleges spanning three midwest states to further their respective swimming careers. Sterling will hold a signing day for its senior athletes in May.
Wike earned a D-I offer and will swim at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee where she projects to be a standout breaststroker. She will major in biomedical science with a goal of becoming an anesthetics nurse.
Dir will take his blazing 200 freestyle times and butterfly prowess and head to Missouri to swim at D-II William Jewell College. He will major in Biology.
Melton, a strong distance swimmer and butterflier, will swim at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota, which competes at D-III. He has plans to major in Theology with a minor in Psychology.
"I really like the business-like atmosphere," Dir said of the William Jewell swim team. "They were really focused on what I want to do and also focused on me having a good time."
For Melton, the togetherness of the team caught his attention during his visit to St. Thomas.
"I was immediately drawn to the family atmosphere," Melton said. "Once I got there, they all jumped up and introduced themselves. I spent the night with the team and got to be on the deck during their meet the next day. I felt like part of the team right away."
Wike, a three-time state qualifier, was almost wooed by the University of Tampa, a D-II school, after an official visit but had one more stop to make. She took an official visit to Wisconsin-Milwaukee and instantly fell in love with the campus and the swim team.
"I just love the city of Milwaukee," Wike said. "I feel at home there."
But it wasn't all just about the aesthetics and urban feel of the campus. Wike, who barely missed qualifying for state her senior year, figures this was her best chance at improving in hopes to get that bad taste out of her mouth.
"That was the most upset I've been in my whole life," Wike said. "Still, to this day, I'll never get over it and I think that college will give me the shot to bounce back and show what I can do."
She has always had a dream of qualifying for NCAAs and that deep-rooted fire was fueled by watching several family members torch the swimming world.
Wike's cousin, James Wike, won two national championships with the Auburn University, while cousin Emily Wike swam D-I at Oakland University. One of the things Charli learned was that the biggest time drops come in college due to the more intensive workouts.
Charli currently finds herself in the swimming doldrums. She hasn't dropped significant time in her races in a while, but isn't worried and expects that to change soon with a more structured and tailored training regimen.
"I haven't had very many breakthroughs, lately," she said. "I'm anxious to see what [Clements] does with my underwater pulls. He already said there isn't much to change with my stroke, it's just a timing thing."
She estimates that she will be swimming about 40-50 hours each week and hopes to drop a significant amount of time and will have plenty of supporters along the way.
"Even tough I'm going to St. Tomas," Melton said, "I still feel like I'm cheering for Milwaukee and Jewell."