Amanda Petro returns for her senior season at Hersey, and you'd be hard-pressed to find a better swimmer around which to build a team.
A three-time individual state qualifier, she's managed to steadily improve over her high school career.
Contact information ( * required )
Most recently, Petro excelled at the U.S. junior nationals in mid-August, where she finished 24th in the 100-meter backstroke and 20th in the 200 backstroke.
She was the only swimmer from Illinois to make the 200 back finals.
Not bad, especially considering that up to this point Petro's top high school events had been the 100 and 200 freestyles.
"Her summer was very productive, to say the least," said Hersey coach Dick Mortensen, who credits Arlington Alligators club coach Mary Ruffin for the backstroke breakthrough. "Amanda dropped around 8 seconds in her 200 back this year, which for an elite swimmer to do is unheard of."
Since there's no 200 backstroke in high school girls swimming, Mortensen can't train Petro for that event this fall. But it sounds like there's likely some backstroke sprinting in her immediate future.
Hersey's top graduated senior was Erin Horne, and her specialty was backstroke. So Petro's backstroke development dovetails especially well with that departure and means the Huskies are likely to be solid in all three relays.
While she's also strong in the 500 free, it sounds as if Mortensen has clear plans for Petro.
"I think," he said, "she is going to swim more backstroke this year."
Speaking of Olympics: The more accomplished high school swimmers have already committed to their sport, so the popularity of swimming coverage from the London Games doesn't much affect them.
But the Olympic influence clearly shows in overall swimming participation in seasons following the Summer Games.
Numbers are up across the board in the Mid-Suburban League. Palatine and Elk Grove took especially sharp jumps.
Of course there are many factors at play here -- in Elk Grove's the program has been steadily gaining momentum since its pool was built.
At Schaumburg, Tim Kasper sees two reasons for more participation.
"In part because of the Olympics," he said, "and in part because the Park District team is starting to build back up."
Identity crisis: If you see a middle intitial inserted between the names "Danielle" and "Grubb" in our coverage of Schaumburg swimming, it's in the interest of accuracy. The Saxons have two sophomore swimmers with the same name: Danielle Grubb.
About the only way to tell them apart in print is that middle initial: "J" and "E."
Well, there is one more way: "J" excels in freestyle and butterfly, while you're more likely to find "E" in the breaststroke.
Keeping track: It's been two years since a swimmer from the Mid-Suburban League, St. Viator and Maine West has cracked the championship heat of the high school state meet.
Barrington's Emily Fogle did it most recently in 2009. She won the 100 breaststroke and took third in the 200 IM. But 2010 and '11 featured only consolation swims for area competitors.
There are plenty of swimmers with chances to end the two-year drought this season, though.
Hersey's Amanda Petro placed ninth in the 200 free last season and is poised for a terrific senior year. Barrington junior Mekenna Scheitlin made the consolation heat of the 50 free and is only improving, and frosh distance standout Kristen Jacobsen certainly has finals potential.
Fremd senior Breanna Anderson (sprints) and sophomore Erica King (distance) are within range, and Buffalo Grove senior Veronika Jedryka, a three-time state qualifier, excels across a wide range of strokes and distances.
Doubtless there are others who have a chance to make the finals. Part of the fun of swimming is seeing those competitors emerge.
Swimmers, take your mark . . .