Swimming sisters separate from the pack
Ellie and Noelle Elgamel grew up swimming together, and ever since they hit the water next to each other for the first time, they’ve been virtually inseparable in the pool.
So it’s no coincidence that they have continued their success into their high school years.
Ellie, a senior, and Noelle, a sophomore, are two of the top performers on the girls swimming team at The Bishop’s School.
“I thought about commissioning their parents for more, but I think this is all we’re going to get,” joked Knights coach Chad Bishop.
All joking aside, Bishop is thrilled to have had the Elgamel sisters together on his team for the last two years. Ellie’s best stroke is the 100-meter butterfly, as her average time is about 56 seconds. She also won the CIF-San Diego Section championship in the 100 backstroke as a freshman with a time of one minute even.
Noelle swims the 50-meter freestyle in an average of 25.0 seconds, one of the fastest times for a girl in the San Diego Section. Like her sister, she believes her best event is the 100 butterfly.
Both sisters stood out at the City Conference Finals last week (Noelle finished third, followed by Ellie in fourth) and Bishop’s expects that Ellie and Noelle should both post good results as the postseason wears on.
The CIF San Diego Section Finals were scheduled to begin on May 16, with the Finals set for May 19 at Rancho Bernardo High School. “Basically because of those two girls, we did really well at the City Conference Finals,” Bishop said. “They always get us a couple of really good finishes. We only had five kids in the meet, so the fact that these two girls are really competitive has kept us competitive every year, and this year has been no exception.”
The sisters began swimming around the same time, when Ellie was 12 and Noelle was nine. They took to being in the water almost immediately, they said, and experienced quick enough improvement that they both began to enjoy the sport.
Both swim year-round now, competing not only for the school team at Bishop’s, but also for their club team, North Coast Aquatics, based at the Jewish Community Center in the UTC area. They say they feed off each other’s competitive nature, but rather than try to stifle the one another, they work to build each other up.
“I really like practicing and swimming with my sister, because being younger, I get to watch Ellie be a team leader for the high school team and learn from her,” Noelle said. “It’s been great to be a part of it.” Probably the most fun they have, both sisters said, is swimming the relay events (the 200 medley relay, the 200 freestyle relay and the 400 freestyle relay), because it means they get to be teammates in the same event rather than competing for the best time in the same event.
And having the two sisters as teammates, Bishop said, almost makes him feel as though he has cloned his top swimmer. He said the sisters share an uncanny resemblance in the pool, and it’s even better that it shows up in their results.
“If you saw them swim, you would almost definitely say it’s in their genes, because the way they move in the water, it’s almost sort of evolutionary,” Bishop said. “For both girls, a lot of their strength is in their underwater kick - they push off the wall, and two-thirds of the lap is sometimes underway. It seems pretty much like they were born to be there. I don’t want to diminish their effort level - because they do swim five or six hours a day - but they are certainly very well constructed for the pool.”
“With the relays, they always swim two of the four legs, and they look almost identical in the pool,” Bishop said. “They’re both so good that it’s always fun to watch them hit the water and either get us a big lead or catch up, or whatever the case may be.”
Ellie plans to attend the University of Chicago starting next fall, and she expects to be part of the Maroons‚ NCAA Division III swim team there as well. Her younger sister would like to follow in her footsteps, though they insist there is no sibling rivalry here.
“I think we motivate each other more than compete against each other,” Noelle said. “It’s really fun to race against Noelle,” Ellie said, echoing her sister’s sentiments. “We do it together, and it just makes it that much more fun.”