LONGMONT — For the last few season, Karly Pearson sat and watched her older sister Emma and the rest of the Silver Creek Raptors swimming program go.
She took everything in, including down to watching her future head coach Debbie Stewart go about her business and what she expected from her girls.
When her time finally came to don the maroon, silver and black this season, the youngest Pearson, now a freshman, seized the opportunity and ... swam with it.
In the Raptors first meet of the season against Brighton, Karly's first high school meet, Stewart had both sisters in the 200 IM — an off event for each of them — and what happened next was typical of sisterly competition. They raced each other to the wall in state qualifying fashion and finished 1-2.
"I knew how Emma (a junior) had swam because she had been with me, but I had only heard about Karly," Stewart recollected. "Even their mom said that she thought Karly out-touched her in that meet but they both pushed each other to make a state cut in their first meet."
"The camaraderie and the competition between the two was cute to watch."
It was just the latest in eight years of competitive swimming together that the Pearson sisters have pushed each other to get the most out of the other.
After moving to Longmont from Ruidoso, New Mexico where they started their love affair with the water, it was Emma that burst on to the scene first for the Raptors. She was part of Stewart's fantastic freshman class that helped Silver Creek to a top-10 finish in 2015.
Emma has qualified for state in each of the past two seasons in both the 200 and 500 freestyles and now, with a special senior class as well, has been instrumental in incorporating the newest crop of Raptors into the mix.
"There is no class division on the team, but me being there to help mentor and help (Karly) out is a unique opportunity," said Emma Pearson, who has already qualified for state this season in the 200 and 500 as well as the IM in that first meet.
Emma is quick to brag about her sister as well: "She is a really strong swimmer and I know that her freshman season has been really exciting for her and for me as well, just to watch her grow. I think she has gotten a lot more motivation coming in as a freshman and having the chance to swim with upperclassmen and getting that competition. The next four years are going to be absolutely incredible."
And Karly, to her credit, was not about to throw her sister under the bus or give away any family secrets.
"We are very competitive with each other, but in a sisterly way ... so it is more supportive of each other because she is my best friend," said Karly, who has qualified for state in the 200 IM and 100 breaststroke. "We are competitive, but we are more supportive."
One thing they can agree on is making the Raptors as much of a factor as they can be by the time the state meet rolls around. And in doing so, much like every other competition, they are taking it a meet at a time.
Last weekend in Loveland at the Mountain View Invitational, the Raptors got a chance to see some of the state biggest and best teams and held their own with an impressive display of depth.
"We almost didn't get in that event, I RSVP'd a little late and we really wanted to be there. And because this is where our conference is going to be, we really wanted to get familiar with the pool. It was good exposure for my girls to get in that pool," said Stewart, whose team finished fourth behind the likes of 5A powers Fossil Ridge and Cherry Creek as well as 4A challenger Valor Christian.
"Windsor and Valor are the ones we are watching for and it was good to go up against them in this meet and get some competition going against them."
Stewart said setting up a line-up with the amount of depth she has been a lot easier this season than in years past, and her girls are gearing up for the Longmont City Meet and then the Northern Conference meet back at Mountain View.
"Our main goal is to do well at conference. It has been cool to win it each of the last two years and I'd really like to continue that," Emma Pearson said. "With that incoming freshman class, we have a lot of talent. I'd like to obviously do well at state too."