KALISPELL — Kalispell senior Lily Milner and Whitefish senior Ada Qunell will be continuing their swimming careers at the collegiate level. Lilly will be at the University of Utah and Emma at Colorado Mesa. And both of them say friendship was a contributing factor.
Milner and Qunell have grown up in the pool together since the eighth grade competing on the same club for the Kalipell Aquatic Team, but saying they are teammates doesn't even begin to tell the whole story.
"I think that Lily is one of my biggest motivators and biggest role models. Seeing her reaching her goals and swimming at the collegiate level really pushed me to," Qunell said.
"You know, we laugh so hard together and we compete so hard against each other, and I love watching her swim and I love watching her succeed. Everything we do together is just so much fun," Milner added.
But being each other's biggest fans means also helping each other on days when the motivation just wasn't there, in and out of the water.
"You know, we can tell when the other one is not having a good day and struggling, and we know exactly what we need to do to get each other in the right mind space and have a good time in practice and kind of struggle together, we, push through it together and lift each other up," said Qunell.
And lifting each other up was exactly what they needed when it came to decision time, especially for Ada, who was treading water on whether or not to continue her swimming career.
" I think she was definitely one of the biggest contributors to me competing in college," said Qunell. "I went through a period where I wasn't really sure if that was something I wanted to do, and seeing her do it honestly made me want to do it too. I think we work really well together and kind of feed off of each other."
Knowing each other in and out of the pool is the foundation of this duo, which meant Ada knew Lily's decision before she even did.
"We talked very deeply about all of our thoughts and feelings about a school that we were talking to," said Milner. "So she kind of almost knew before I knew that I was going to go to Utah just based on the way I talked about it. So when I told her she's like yep, yeah, sounds right."
"They both became really good friends with each other and bonded through swimming, leading them to a friendship they didn't. And I think that's helped them a lot more than they even know," head coach at Kalispell Aquatic Club Major Robinson said.