Top teams: Downers Grove North, Hinsdale Central, Naperville North, Neuqua Valley.
Top swimmers and divers: Benet: Tory Bertschy, sr.; Cristina Favia, sr.; Katelyn Katsafanas, sr.; Taylor Kramer (diver) junior; Taylor Lifka, jr.; Downers Grove North: Meghan Downey (diver), sr.; Jen Gockman, jr.; Hannah Kaufman, jr.; Gabriele Serniute, fr. Gabby Sims, so,; Maddy Sims, so.; Glenbard North (co-op): Mary Floren, jr.; Danielle Homere, so.; Marisa Savegnago, so.; Glenbard West (co-op): Meg Beese, so; Connie Hsu, sr.; Hinsdale Central: Jen Coady, sr.; Genna Heidkamp, sr.; Abbey King, sr.; Hannah Lillioja, sr.; Lindsay Pavich, sr.; Kristen Worthington, sr.; Hinsdale South: Maya Rodrigues, sr.; Hannah Veselik, sr.; Lake Park: Taylor Johns, sr.; Metea Valley: Lizzie Hollopeter, sr.; Linsdsay Raczak, jr.; Megan Sellers, sr.; Naperville Central: Lauren Gunn, sr.; Taylor Lehane, so.; Julia Roller, jr.; Molly Schatz (diver), jr.; Naperville North: Paige Bloodgood (diver), sr.; Becca Bogle, jr.; Lauren Bogle, sr.; Devin Jacobs, fr.; Jen Law, sr.; Rachel Prorok, jr.; Anna Williams, jr.; Neuqua Valley: Megan Childs, jr.; Gia Dalesandro, jr.; Maggie Maxstadt, sr.; Riley Schroedter, jr.; Courtney Taylor, sr.; Waubonsie Valley: Taylor Eggenberger (diver), sr.; Maddie Hunt, so. Wheaton co-op: Erin Bagley, jr.; Sarah Schaffer, sr. Erin Sivak, jr.; West Chicago: Maya Skorupski, jr.; York: Shannon Sullivan, sr.
Outlook: The strength of West Suburban swimming was demonstrated once again at last year's state meet as 11 teams from DuPage County finished in the Top 20 in state. While some of the marquee performers such as state champions Lauren Mikulecky (diving) of Neuqua Valley, and Haley Sims (200 IM and 100 butterfly) of Downers Grove North have graduated, there's still a great group of returnees to guarantee that the area will be well-represented when it's time to hand out individual medals this year.
Among this year's headliners are: Sims' younger sister Gabby Sims, who finished second in both the 100 backstroke and 100 free; Glenbard West co-op's Hsu, who attends Glenbard South and was third in the 200 IM and second in the 100 butterfly; Hinsdale Central's Heidkamp who was third in the fly; and Neuqua Valley's Dalesandro, who was fourth in the 100 backstroke. In addition Eggenberger of Waubonsie finished fourth in the diving and has her eye on the big prize this year.
As far as the teams are concerned, last year was a magical year for both Downers Grove North, which finished fourth, and Hinsdale Central, which finished fifth. Coaches Judy Busse of the Trojans and Bob Barber of the Red Devils believe that the magic can continue this year. "Losing Haley is huge," Busse said. "Triple state champs don't come along that often. But we're aiming for the top five again. We don't know where the points will come from at this time. Two or three people will have to score more, but we're a little deeper in the freestyle events this year."
The Red Devils return just about everybody, including the entire cast from the three relay teams that all finished top 12. The veterans go into this season with more confidence because they know what can be achieved, and there's a talented younger group coming up behind them. "Our kids know what they want to accomplish this year," Barber said. "They're talented and they've been motivated ever since they got here. We're one of five schools who have a chance to trophy."
Neuqua Valley, which finished eighth, will have a new coach this year, Brandon King, and he has been greeted by a strong group of veterans led by state-scorers Dalesandro and Childs. "We have a strong group of sprinters and that should make our relays really good," King said. "And many of our girls have been to state, and that experience will be a big helps this year. We'd like to finish in the top five or six this year."
Naperville North finished ninth last year and 15th two years ago with what were basically young teams. The Huskies have come of age and focused on improving their state finish. Law, who finished top six in both the 200 IM and the 100 butterfly, is the top returner on a deep and talented squad. Keys to the team could be having Becca Bogle and Williams at full fitness this year. "This team has the potential to score in every event at state," coach Kristy Holben said. "It will be exciting to see what they can do."
Among the pleasant surprises last year were the two Glenbard co-op teams, both essentially first-year varsity programs. The Glenbard West co-op (Glenbard West and South) finished 16th with the amazing Hsu scoring many of the points. This year's group is deeper and more experienced, and coach Chris Flamion is expecting great things.
Glenbard North co-op (Glenbard North and East) has a group of high-achievers returning led by two-time state qualifier Floren, and it could challenge the DuPage Valley Conference opponents who expect to fight for second place behind the Huskies. Coach Chris Del Galdo believes his team could qualify all three relays.
In the DVC Naperville Central has an outstanding swimmer in Roller at the top of the lineup and a great deal of depth. The Redhawks have the best chance to challenge the Huskies. Wheaton co-op can be counted on to challenge in the DVC and be well-represented at the state meet. Bagley and Schaffer are potential scorers.
West Chicago lost Kelly Dunn, who has been the heart of the program the past four years, but Skorupski leads a small but talented nucleus
York should be strong again with many returning from last year's team that finished 18th at state, Hinsdale South is always competitive, and Downers Grove South is young but improving.
Metea Valley, which is led by Sellers, who was third last year in her third straight top-four finish in the breaststroke, and Waubonsie Valley, with Eggenberger at the head of the lineup, will be better this year and are both expected to make some noise in the Upstate Eight.
Benet, a veteran crew with better depth this year, is looking forward to a stronger state meet as several qualifiers will be looking to score at state.
Top events: Sept. 9-10 Neuqua Valley Invite; Sept. 17 West Chicago Invite; Sept. 24 Rosary Invite; Downers Grove North Invite; Oct. 15 New Trier Relays ; Oct. 21-22 Metea Valley Mustang Invite; Oct. 28-29 conference meets; Nov. 12 sectionals; Nov. 18-19 state.
-- Neil Shalin