Carrie Bennett Sunkes brought Skidmore College's swimming program to national prominence in the late 1990s. Now, the Saratoga Springs school has honored the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake High School graduate.
Bennett Sunkes was the first swimmer inducted into Skidmore's 3-year-old Hall of Fame when the school had its annual ceremony in October.
I was actually very surprised, said Bennett Sunkes. "A swimmer had never been inducted before, so I was very honored."
Bennett Sunkes' impact on the program is still visible, nine years after she last swam for the Thoroughbreds. She still holds the school record in the 50- and 100-meter freestyles, as well as the 100-meter butterfly. She is also part of the school's record-holding 200 freestyle relay team.
"I'd like to say I am (surprised), but I worked very hard to get those records. So, I'm glad they're still around," said Bennett Sunkes.
Bennett Sunkes was also the first Skidmore swimmer to qualify for the NCAA Division III Championships. Her top-three finishes in the 100 butterfly (first place), 50 freestyle (second) and 100 freestyle (third) at the 1997 New York State Women's Collegiate Athletic Association Championships earned Bennett Sunkes her only trip to the NCAAs.
"It was very overwhelming," recalled Bennett Sunkes. "I got off the plane and went directly to the (Miami of Ohio) pool, and the facility was incredible."
Bennett Sunkes might have qualified for more national meets, but she focused on her academics in her junior and senior years at Skidmore as she studied to become a teacher.
"Being an education major at Skidmore, I knew my junior and senior years were going to be very intensive. So, I knew it would be tough balancing academics with athletics," she said.
After receiving her degree, Bennett Sunkes moved from competitive swimming to teaching swimming. She coached the Shaker and Niskayuna varsity teams before taking time out in 2006 to give birth to her son. She is currently the modified swim team coach at Ballston Spa, where her husband Dave Sunkes works as the varsity baseball coach.
"I'm really enjoying developing the kids' skill and love of swimming. It's very rewarding," said Bennett Sunkes.
Bennett Sunkes balances coaching with her roles as BH-BL's coordinator of gifted and talented programs and an elementary school teacher. And by working at her old stomping grounds, she keeps an eye on the BH-BL girls swim team, which recently won its third consecutive Section II, Class B title.
"Having swum on one of the Section-winning teams, it's nice to see the tradition continue," said Bennett Sunkes.""