In every swim meet under the jurisdiction of the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association, there are eight individual events, three relays, and one diving competition.
Swimmers are allowed to compete in a total of four events — either two individual and two relays, or one individual and three relays.
And minus that guideline, there might be no limit to what Chelmsford High senior Caitlin Sheridan could have left behind in her path — a swath that has left fellow competitors exasperated and fed up, coaches impressed, and college recruiters trying to convince her that their school is her ideal destination.
Her high school career will end next month, capping off what have been the four greatest individual seasons in the history of the Chelmsford program.
“She’s number one,” Chelmsford coach Harriet Kinnett said without hesitation.
“I can put her in any event and know that she’s probably going to win. That’s a nice luxury.”
The results validate every piece of Kinnett’s praise.
Sheridan has qualified for the state meet in all eight individual events. She’s an All-American in the 200 intermediate medley and 100-yard butterfly, the two individual events she won at last year’s Division 1 state meet, in school record times of 2:02.97 and 56:02, respectively.
At the same meet, Sheridan anchored her team’s first-place performance in the 200-yard freestyle relay (1:38.76) alongside Katherine Su, Julia Sementelli, and Jenny Day, the same relay in which Sheridan helped set a state record at the 2011 state meet (1:38.19)
In addition, Sheridan anchored the Lions’ runner-up finish in the 400-yard freestyle relay (3:36.18) in 2012. Her name is sprinkled atop the Chelmsford record book in other events as well, including a sophomore year 51:66 100 freestyle time and the 200-yard medley relay as a freshman (anchored, at 1:51.19).
“Going in freshman year, it was always a hope of mine to be up there with Caitlin Klick (class of 1998),” Sheridan said of one of the program’s greatest swimmers.
“Looking back now, it’s kind of crazy to see my name up there. As a senior, I’m extra-motivated and more focused.”
For Kinnett, Sheridan has propelled an engine that has run with purpose for nearly two decades. In 17 seaons, she has compiled a 198-23-3 record.
League titles are difficult to earn in the hotly contested Merrimack Valley Conference.
League rival Andover had won the MVC title individually in each of Sheridan’s first three seasons and has won 13 of the last state titles (Chelmsford won in 2008). Last Friday night, after a 93-93 tie between the teams, a tie for the league crown was finalized.
Sheridan, of course, will have much more on her mind when the teams meet again at the North Sectional Nov. 9 at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and with the states meet looming on the horizon.
“We’re always gunning for [Andover] and Acton-Boxborough,” Sheridan said.
“Everyone in the MVC is always trying to improve. But I really hope we get after it this year.”
Day, a 500 freestyle and 200 freestyle specialist who has been a teammate, competitor, and friend for a number of years, is less surprised than anyone at Sheridan’s level of swimming acumen.
“We’ve been on so many teams together, progressing through the summer leagues, and eventually high school,” said Day. “She’s grown as a swimmer and competitor. Coming in as a freshman, everyone knew Caitlin was very fast.”
With Sheridan’s high school success, she’s one of just a handful of area swimmers who has secured a national platform, signing with Division 1 Arkansas earlier this month.
Louisville and Penn State were interested too, but ultimately Sheridan knew that Arkansas was the best fit.
“I felt a certain pride when I put on the Arkansas shirt,” Sheridan said. “I fell in love with the school. If I’m going to swim somewhere for the next four years, I want to love it and love the team. So I have no regrets.”
Judging by her endless list of accomplishments, she can say the same for her high school career as well.