After climbing a block for the start of the 200- and 500-yard freestyle prelims at Friday's girls state swimming and diving meet, Libertyville junior Morgan Dickson looked for one thing as she scanned New Trier's jam-packed deck:
Her coach's swaying hand.
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"I waved at her each time," said Wildcats coach Erik Rogers. "So she knew where I was standing. You have to do that at a meet like this; it's so crowded in here."
But Dickson didn't return the greeting.
"I made eye contact with him," she said. "I didn't wave back, because I was in my zone."
She's in a pair championship finals today, after qualifying third in the 500 free (4:55.64) and fifth in the 200 free (1:51.6).
Each time is a school record.
"I felt so much relief after the 200," said Dickson, eighth in the 500 free at last year's state meet. "Pressure was gone; a weight had been lifted off me.
"I love big meets," she added.
Michelle Garland's heart Friday?
Her grandfather passed away a couple of weeks ago.
Garland, a Loyola Academy senior who lives in Grayslake, clocked a prelim-best 1:04.76 in the 100 breaststroke. She had entered the meet ranked 14th (1:06.81) in the event.
"I thought of my grandfather right after I saw my time," said Garland, who also qualified fourth in the 200 IM (2:05.25) and as a member of the 200 medley (fifth, 1:45.6) and 200 free (fifth, 1:35.47) relays.
"That time (in the 100 breaststroke) … it shocked me."
Madison Blaydes' time in the 100 backstroke (57.47) was swift enough for a championship-heat spot (sixth seed) today. The Stevenson junior wasn't thrilled with her first 50 yards in the race.
"It took a little while for me to get going," she said, still beaming 30 minutes after the feat. "I remember thinking, right before the second 50, 'OK, I'm going to bring this home.'
"I was hoping for top 12, not top six."
Mundelein's 200 medley relay gets to race for a top-12 medal today, after qualifying 11th Friday with a 1:48.69.
The quartet needed a big-time butterfly split from Mustangs junior Meghan Falconer.
It got one.
Falconer motored to a lifetime-best 26.74 split.
"Fast arms, fast kicks," she said. "Good start, good turn."
Sophomore Karrie Kozokar (anchor) and freshmen Erin Falconer and Jennifer Kordik swam the other medley legs.
Mundelein's 400 free relay also advanced to a consolation heat today. Erin Falconer, Kordik, Kozokar and senior Amy Klink placed eighth (3:31.42) in a prelim Friday.
Erin Falconer, with a 52.38 in the 100 free (10th seed), earned the Mustang's third Saturday berth.
Eleven Mundelein entrants competed Friday.
Only one (Klink, in the 50 free) made it to state last year.
"So different this year … so different," said Mustangs second-year coach Melissa Healy. "It's so nice to look up in the stands and see so many of the girls' family members and friends cheering for us."
None of Warren's state entrants advanced. But Blue Devils coach Chad Rusk looked at the big picture and liked what he saw.
"Last year, at this meet, we showed up," said Rusk, whose crew placed third at the North Suburban Conference Meet and third at last weekend's Vernon Hills Sectional.
"This year," he added, "we came here with expectations, even though we knew it would be hard to continue to drop (times), drop, drop. We had a great season. This meet is tough. You have to be prepared to forget about any ritual you might have. I mean, look at what goes on in warm-up sessions -- about 25 girls swim laps in each lane, at the same time."
A couple of Stevenson Patriots just missed qualifying for a consolation-heat slot (7-12). Sophomore Julia Wawer went 52.64 (13th place) in the 100 free. The last to qualify in the event, Lyons Township's Louisa Hoffman, was a mere 0.01 faster than the Pat.
Wawer's classmate, Riley Kirby, finished 14th (58.48) in the 100 back, or just 0.18 slower than the 12th-place effort (58.3) by Loyola's Madeleine Jardeleza.
Three state records fell on Friday, with Glenbrook South junior Olivia Smoliga KO'ing two of them. The Titan sped to a 22.66 in the 50 free and a 48.88 in the 100 free. Fenwick's 200 medley relay zipped to a 1:42.5.
The consolation and championship finals start at 1 p.m. today.