Early in the prep swim season, at the Brookfield East Invitational, Amy Silvestri anxiously watched from the bleachers as her two daughters prepared to race.
Against each other.
Jenna — who is a senior at Madison Edgewood — lined up right next to her little sister, Ally — who is a freshman at Middleton.
Amy wasn’t used to seeing them competing head-to-head. Their age difference had kept that from happening too much while swimming for club programs.
Parents from both schools asked Amy whom she wanted to win.
Of course, she refused to choose.
“I would say, ‘Well, I want both of them to do well,’” Amy said. “I can’t root for one over the other.”
Jenna bested Ally that day, both in the 100-yard breaststroke and 200 individual medley. She also helped the Crusaders’ 200 medley relay team finish just ahead of Ally’s Middleton crew.
In the end, Ally wasn’t too upset about losing to her big sister. For her, it was more about the opportunity to compete against Jenna again.
“The only times we ever would swim against each other would be maybe once a year, at national-level meets,” Ally said. “It was so nice to finally get up and race her again, and it was a very fun and exciting time for the both of us.”
However, according to Amy, Jenna wouldn’t accept losing to her little sister head-to-head — and that gave her some extra motivation in Brookfield.
Jenna, who will swim for the University of Wisconsin next season, will have the opportunity to compete indirectly with Ally again this weekend — although they won’t swim in the same meet, and not even on the same day.
Jenna will swim for Edgewood tonight in the WIAA Division 2 state meet, held at the UW Natatorium.
Ally will swim Saturday for Middleton in the Division 1 meet.
The state races will mark the end of a season in which the Silvestri sisters went through a major transition.
The family moved from Kohler (outside of Sheboygan) to Middleton because their father, Scott, was named vice president and general manager of Learfield’s Badger Sports Properties, the company that manages the multimedia and sponsorship rights for UW athletics.
This meant Amy had to leave her job as the girls swimming coach at Kohler, where she had mentored Jenna for the previous three years.
“It was really hard not having my mom coach me at first. She pushed me really hard,” Jenna said. “And it was weird having her in the stands and not down on the deck with her watch, timing me.”
Jenna chose Edgewood because she wasn’t ready to dive into a school with an enrollment of more than 2,000 students. After spending three years at Kohler, with an enrollment of just over 200 students, she wanted to finish her prep career at a smaller school.
Despite the daunting task of transferring schools for her senior year, Jenna quickly adjusted to her new environment.
The swim team played a key role in her transition, especially because practice started before school did.
“It helped a lot, because I already had people to sit with at lunch and to talk to and stuff,” she said.
In contrast to Jenna, Ally was ready for a change and chose Middleton because she was eager to experience a large-school atmosphere.
“I was very nervous about it before we moved. Just the thought of a new school scared me,” Ally said. “But I couldn’t be happier with the decision I made to come here. It’s been such an exciting and fun time.”
Having the girls choose different schools presented a bit of a challenge for Scott and Amy, as there were times when they both had meets on the same day.
It was decided that because Amy had spent the previous three years coaching Jenna, she would go to her meets, and Scott would go to Ally’s.
This presented the biggest obstacle the past two weekends, when the postseason meets — the most important races of the year — fell on the same days.
Scott and Amy furiously texted each other their daughters’ results.
“(The texting) was constant. But they never really swam at the exact same time. So when Ally was on breaks, I was just looking at my phone and waiting for the texts to roll in,” Amy said.
That won’t be the case this weekend, as the whole family will be able to watch both Jenna and Ally compete for state championships — in which both of their teams are defending champs and picked to challenge for repeat titles.