Coach: Bill Schalz
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Key losses to graduation: Sarah Sykstus, Molly Coonce, Rachel Burke, Katherine Hare, Emily Launer, Taylor Harris, Grace Miller.
Top returning swimmers and divers: Kate Canfield, Sophomore; Erin Hart, Sophomore; Elaina Ricci, Sophomore.
Key newcomers: Annie Gosselin, Freshman; Katie Rentz, Freshman; Emma Kusczynski, Freshman; Georgia Young, Freshman, Sarah Fergus, Freshman, Lauren Streid, Freshman.
Outlook: The program Rosary coach Bill Schalz uses to type in his swim lineups forces him to manually remove athletes from a swim lineup so he can place new athletes into the lineup. This year, he realized just how many swimmers graduated in May as he removed name after name in preparation for the team's season-opening meet against Oswego. "We are a much different team right now," Schalz said. "We're pretty good though. But our last senior class had two firsts in state and two thirds and they were obviously one of the best classes we've ever had -- and we've had some great classes here." Although the graduating seniors left a number of holes in the Beads' lineup, there are always swimmers to fill those slots, and Schalz said he feels there is plenty of talent as the 2012 season kicks off. Sophomores Kate Canfield and Erin Hart both swam at the state meet last year and this year's freshman class is as talented as it is large. "We're very excited about our freshmen and sophomores," Schalz said. "We had a great group of freshmen last year and a couple of them scored at state. We feel we have every bit as good a freshman class this year." Schalz said two of the freshmen -- backstroke swimmer Annie Gosselin and breaststroke swimmer Katie Rentz -- have already posted times that would score points at the state meet. "We're starting the season swimming a medley relay with three freshmen and one sophomore," Schalz said. "All our relays are made of freshmen and sophomores." Despite their collective youth and the inexperience of the freshmen at the varsity level -- Schalz said a team feeling is building quickly in practice. "They all either swam with each other or against each other at age-group state meets," Schalz said. "We have five sophomores and they swam for four different club teams, and our freshmen lined up with them for those club teams." Schalz did say the focus of high school swimming is different, and that will be a challenge for his young team. "We're going from the age-group mindset to the high school mindset, which is to focus on one weekend in November. They've never been to a pep rally where the entire school is standing there cheering for them. It's a little bit of a different ballgame."
St. Charles East
Coach: Joe Cabel
Key losses to graduation: Emma Smith, Ashley Shanel
Top returning swimmers and divers: Kimmie Scott, Senior; Mary Snyder, Senior; Nicole Chapko, Senior; Stephanie Garvin, Junior; Hannah Saunders, Senior
Key newcomers: Lucy Johnson, Freshman; Isabel Herb, Freshman; Shea Hoyt, Junior.
Outlook: When St. Charles East coach Joe Cabel turns his team loose and they sprint from one end of the Norris Center pool to the other, he said the sound of churning water alone tells him there's some talent in the water. "When we tell them to go all-out, there's a totally different sound in the water," Cabel said. "We may not have a secret weapon or whatever. But we have a lot of different ways we can go. It's nice to that strong and deep." Depth is a big things for the Saints, who graduated one of the top swimmers in the state in May in Yale-bound Emma Smith. Smith won the 200-yard I.M. and was third in the 500 freestyle while the Saints finished 13th as a team. "This is as deep a team as I've had," Cabel said. "That makes for fantastic practices. They're battling it out. We've had to pull back the reins some for them because we can't just let them go all the time. We need to save something for next Wednesday and our meet with York." The Saints have a trio of seniors in Nicole Chapko, Mary Snyder and Kimmie Scott along with junior Izzie Bindseil who return with state meet experience. The tone these and other returnees set will help guide the Saints through the early weeks of the season. "Swimmers like Chapko, Snyder and Scott have a lot of things that they can do," Cabel said. "You can put them into anything and they can respond." Bindseil coupled a breakout sophomore season with a strong club season. "She had a great summer," Cabel said. "She's a leader in hard work and we have a very gutsy team this year -- a very hardworking team." There is great tradition at St. Charles East, a school with six state championships to its credit. Cabel said that legacy of that success if a positive for his team. "I don't have to tell kids to come to practice or to be on-time," he said. "I think that's something that goes through the entire city as far as swimming goes."
St. Charles North
Coach: Rob Rooney
Key losses to graduation: Lauren Zima, Lauren Reynolds, Allie Smith,
Top returning swimmers and divers: Meagan Popp, Sophomore; Hannah Zimmer, Junior; Emily Ponte, Junior; Chloe Tykal, Senior.
Key newcomers: Monica Guyette, Freshmanl Grace Samuelson, Freshman; Kristen Kowaleski, Freshman; Serena Allendorfer, Freshman.
Outlook: In crafting a swim team each season, St. Charles North coach Rob Rooney always looks to find a team feeling, a unified approach, through which his team can work through the difficult practices to come over the coming 10 weeks before the IHSA state meet. And despite a program-record 19 freshman, that feeling has already begun to take shape. "This is probably the most even-keeled group of kids that I have had in awhile," Rooney said. "There are a lot of great kids who are very supportive of each other and very understanding. We have a group of kids who are seniors who, from top to bottom, have a great relationship with each other. They did a lot of planning in the spring to set things up for this year, and they did a fantastic job. The North Stars finished 15th in the IHSA state meet last year, and key components to that team such as Lauren Zima and Lauren Reynolds graduated. The team's top returning finisher was Meagan Popp, who was fourth in the 200 IM and swam on relays. "There are around 20 really good swimmers in Illinois, and (Popp's) one of them," Rooney said. "She's a bright kid and a smart kid who has a lot to give, and who I feel can get a lot in return." Popp's busy summer included a trip to the U.S. Olympic trials. There are other athletes returning with state meet experience, including senior Emily Ponte and junior Hannah Zimmer. But that massive group of freshmen means that no matter how well the team fares this year, there will be plenty of names with which to get acquainted as athletes who will lead the program for years to come. "A lot of those freshmen have club experience and a lot of them have growth development potential. I look at them and go 'We could be very good in a few years.' They're a group of kids who are very untapped, which I'm very excited for."
Coach: Chris Ranallo
Key losses to graduation: Carolyn Kovanic, Brynn Lehman.
Top returning swimmers and divers: Miranda Ambre, Junior; Polly Bouris, Junior; Kayla Hickernell, Senior; Mary Houlihan, Senior; Grace Lee, Junior; Emily Nagy, Junior Kerri Olson, Junior; Shannon Sullivan; Junior.
Key newcomers: Nicole Bednarek, Freshman; Hansen Coleman, Freshman; Annika Ness, Freshman.
Outlook: Even before he officially conducted his first practice, West Aurora coach Chris Ranallo was laying the groundwork for the 2012 season and future campaigns. "When I found I had the job, I made sure we had a meeting at the school with Cindy Neukirch, who was the head coach and is my assistant," Ranallo said. "I wanted to get the word out that we had a team at the school and what my expectations would be." That meeting helped spark an interest in the team. The Blackhawks hit the water this fall with 30 swimmers, 10 more than in 2011. Ranallo may be a first-year head coach, but he has plenty of experience in the area. A North Central College graduate, he interned at Naperville North for two years. He worked for two years as an assistant at Metea Valley and then a further year as the water polo coach at Waubonsie Valley. "West Aurora gave me an opportunity to teach full-time and to be a head coach," Ranallo said. One thing Ranallo is very aware of is the talent in area programs, and he wants to build West Aurora to be able to compete with those area powers. That will, he admits, take time. But that doesn't mean the Blackhawks can't begin having success this fall. "We have two freshmen who have club experience with the Bullets, which is great," Ranallo said. "They come in with high expectations. We have a number of other kids returning who have great varsity experience. We want to prepare those kids and try to get a state qualifier or two this year." By working at Naperville North, Ranallo is aware how strong the DuPage Valley Conference is in girls swimming. "It's a tough conference, but I also want us to work to be able to compete in that as well," he said. "You know you're going up against great swimmers and you know you're going to be swimming against some of the best times in the state when you go against them."