South Elgin girls' swimming coach Margie Ellwood has plenty to smile about.
The Storm return a number of swimmers who will play integral roles this season. Carly Mette is one of those swimmers.
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"She comes to us with a long history of competing and has textbook backstroke turns and streamlines off the wall," said Ellwood. "She favors the backstroke, but is an incredible flyer as well."
Senior Jordan Unger will also help in the backstroke. She knocked off more than 10 seconds from her backstroke time at the Upstate Eight Conference meet.
Ellwood also has been impressed with senior Brianne Kreterfield's progress. Kreterfield enjoys competing in the breaststroke. "She jumped up to varsity this season and has been pushing herself in practices with the increased yardage," said Ellwood. "Brianne's hard work will help her continue to drop her times."
Sophomores Emily Logan and Rachel Degrane are back in the distance events, while junior Meghan Markwell has shown promise in the distance events and is going after the 100 butterfly.
Junior Emily Trenn is a key newcomer focusing on the 500 and 100 backstroke. Freshmen Carolyn Riehle, Anastasia Chrvinko and Katie Loperski will help in the sprint events.
"The girls are thoughtful, hardworking and characters," complimented Ellwood. "I believe the key to their success is they enjoy coming to practice and swimming with their friends."
Ellwood noted the majority of the team is comprised of freshmen and sophomores. "Many of these athletes are new to the sport, so my outlook for the team is that it is a building year," she said. "However, we are still focusing on state-qualifying times from Emily Trenn and Carly Mette. I'm looking forward to a very exciting season."
The Bartlett-Streamwood co-op team returns the likes of seniors Rachel Lee (freestyle sprints), Dana Cichon (freestyle sprints) and Kerstin Ford (breaststroke). Freshmen Meagan Cummins, Caitlin McGrath, Katherine McMahon and Christina Troha will help at the varsity level.
"We have 11 seniors this year with a lot of experience swimming together in high school and on club teams," said coach Carl Metzke. "They have been through a lot of yards together and are hoping to leave a mark on swimming at Bartlett. With their leadership, we are setting examples for the younger swimmers to look up to. In order for them to do their best this season, they need to band together to get through some tough workouts that will prepare them for the end of the season. They are excited at the opportunity, but understand there is a lot of work to do until November."
Metzke is working on getting his relays properly assembled. "We are filling some spots on relays and will take some time to find the best mix for each varsity relay," he said.
The coach also noted the team is working hard to peak come postseason time. "Look for our swimmers to drop some time near sectionals and put in some lifetime bests," he said. "If they are healthy and happy by the end of the meet with a lifetime best time in a few events, we will be successful."
The Elgin-Larkin co-op returns seniors Maggie Lehman (breaststroke) and Kathleen McCaffery (50, 100 backstroke). Key newcomers to the team include freshmen Olivia Brownfield (backstroke) and Heather Aubry (numerous events).
"Our team will become stronger this year as we build upon what we worked hard on last year," said Elgin-Larkin coach Nancy Kalish. "We are a small team working to build in numbers and depth. Our strength is we are a close team who supports and encourages each other throughout practices and meets.
Kalish has a number of goals in mind for the team. "I would like to see the girls swim personal bests throughout the season and in our final conference and sectional meets," she said. "I would like to see the girls who are new to the sport learn and progress in the four competitive strokes."
In the Fox Valley Conference, the Crystal Lake District 155 co-op team (South, Central, Prairie Ridge) is looking to defend its league title. Crystal Lake returns a number of key components, including state qualifiers Marisa Barton, Courtney Lefevre and Nikayla Dahl.
Barton, a senior at Prairie Ridge, was third in the state in the 50 last year and swam the 100 and was part of the 200 free relay state team. This season, Barton will swim the 50 and 100. Lefevre, also a Prairie Ridge senior, was part of the 200 free relay state team, while Dahl, a senior at South, qualified in the 50 and was part of the 200 relay team. Central senior Amanda Neville also is back.
"We have a strong base of sprinters," said Crystal Lake coach Lindsay Mernitz. "This will help with our relays throughout the season. We have great attitudes and are very excited about the season. This helps with a positive team atmosphere."
Crystal Lake is looking for its third conference title in a row. "We hope to win conference and get a relay to state along with some individual swims," said Mernitz.
Cary-Grove finished third in the FVC last year. The Trojans return seniors Emily Griswold and Maddie Gronset, junior Ashley Mega and sophomore Melissa Rose.
Rose placed 29th in the state in the breaststroke last year with a time of 1:08.12. Griswold swam the fly and IM last year and will pursue the backstroke and freestyle events this year. Gronset is focusing on freestyle and, according to coach Scott Lattyak, may dabble with another specialty stroke. Mega swims the fly and sprint freestyle events.
Freshmen Natalie Hamann, Seerat Dhinsda and Michelle Follett also will contribute. Hamann can swim multiple events and will focus on the backstroke, freestyle events and the IM. Dhinsda is strong in freestyle and the butterfly, while Follett will swim the sprint and middle distance freestyle events and is a potential IM swimmer.
"Our overall outlook for the team is to be as united as possible, have fun, surprise people and surprise ourselves," said Lattyak. "This team has more potential than they know. It will be exciting to see once they recognize that and realize what they are capable of."
Huntley has 19 swimmers in its program. New coach George Keenan said the opportunity to practice more often will pay dividends for the team. The Red Raiders now practice 10 hours a week at Centegra in Huntley, however the team cannot hold meets there due to the absence of starting blocks. The team only had 5 hours of practice per week last year.
"The increased practice time will help some of the kids that are better swimmers," said Keenan. "We might surprise some people."
Huntley's varsity team features Ali and Amanda Cazel, Chanel Curtis, Emily Blanken, Emily Ferguson, Natalie Rodriguez, Abby Eirmann, Abby Siefken, Jasmine Tado and Emma Plansky.
Note: Jacobs and Dundee-Crown did not respond to inquiries or did not provide information for this preview.