It's not your average year at Barrington. The seemingly perpetual Mid-Suburban League champs lost standout sprinter Erika Elliott to graduation, and coach Jim Bart, entering his 29th year of coaching the Fillies, is definitely looking at one of his more challenging seasons. "I really don't know if we're the favorite this year," he said. There are certainly enough holdovers from last year's team for the makings of a solid group. Junior Mekenna Scheitlin scored points in the 50 free at the state meet and shows excellent versatility, with strong breaststroke and IM swims recently. Olivia Hoffman qualified for state in the 100 fly and returns for her junior year, and Emma Barnett and Kelsey Holmes both proved themselves as capable varsity swimmers last year as freshmen. Senior Kayla Widdowson is another versatile contributor. And Bart has high hopes for freshman Kirsten Jacobsen, a distance-swimming standout who will have an immediate impact in the MSL championships, and very likely at the state meet as well. For the record, Barrington has won 20 straight MSL titles. Don't expect them to willingly end that stunning streak. "We've got a ways to go," said Bart, "but I'm confident we'll be a better team at the end of the year."
Three-fourths of Buffalo Grove's state-qualifying 400 freestyle relay is back in action. Senior Veronika Jedryka figures to lead the way for the Bison. A three-time state qualifier, she expanded her arsenal to the sprint freestyles and the 100 backstroke last season, narrowly missing the top 12 in both races at the state meet after distinguishing herself in the distance freestyles in her first two seasons of high school swimming. Seniors Callie Fasching and Margaret Lotzer are the other returning state relay swimmers and give coach Tom Mroz valuable senior leadership. There's also talent throughout the classes, as sophomore Sarah Morosan figures to by a big contributor in the sprints and butterfly. Mroz is also counting on juniors Bridget Whited, Alicia Harris and Rachel Rabs, sophomore Jessica Grazziano and freshman Brina Wahout to make a difference. "After that, we are a young team this year," said Mroz, "and tough to beat."
Justin Bickus leads the Cougars as head coach this season, and it looks like he has a promising group with which to work. Start with sophomore Allison Cicero, who qualified for state last season in the 200- and 500-yard freestyles. Another soph, Paulina Wolska, also has excelled, and Cicero has a top-notch distance-swimming partner in Barbara Rose. Junior Angela Skittone was a key contributor last season and Bickus says she's put in plenty of summer effort. Others expected to make a difference include juniors Daria Gielczynski, Sahar Gowani and Elizabeth Kirkwood; sophomore Carmen Rosas and freshmen Mariana Pachacz and Samantha Wooley. "The practices we have had thus far have been great," Bickus said. "The girls have been impressing me with their work ethic."
Coach Dave Toler has every reason to think his program's steady improvement will continue this season. True, the Grens lost state-qualifying diver Natalie Przybylski to graduation, but virtually every other key competitor returns. In fact, every point-scorer in the swimming events from the MSL championship meet will be back in the lineup. That's a group featuring flexible seniors Angelica Ford (back, IM), Jackie Hirschauer (IM, free) and junior Simona Kurta (fly, free) at its core. Other returners with a chance to play a larger role include seniors Misheel Tserenbat and Morgan Schumacher and junior Neda Semsarieh. And Toler thinks freshman Nikki Sugihara has a chance to have an immediate impact, strengthening Elk Grove relays and deepening the dual lineup. This group of Grens won't be an easy victory for their competitors in the MSL East. "We have legitimate chances for state qualifiers," said Toler. "Workout intensity has never been so consistent. The girls are enthusiastic -- I'm eager to see some racing."
The Vikes are without graduated top-notch divers Stephanie and Eliabeth Uhrich, as well as state relay swimmers Amy McEllen, Sam Matuszewski and Emily McCarthy. The good news for coach Andrew Kittrell is just how many varsity swimmers are back in the water and showing improvement. The Vikings will count on Breanna Anderson, a two-time individual state qualifier in both freestyle sprints, for experience at the highest levels. Kittrell says Fremd is also getting great leadership from state qualifier Kayleen Samuels (backstroke) and Leni Langas, KC Hutmacher and Morgan Mikolajewski. A strong freshman class last year saw distance standout Erica King qualify for state, and Loretta Stelnicki (breaststroke) and Julia Portmann (fly, distance free) were key swimmers too; Kittrell feels all three could qualify for the state meet this season. The program as a whole seems to be in good shape, with the Fremd JV hoping to repeat as conference champs and the frosh-soph taking a shot at what would be its first league crown. Sydney Plichta and Sarah McTague lead a young but competitive diving corps. Kittrell says he hopes to have especially strong medley and 400 freestyle relays. "The girls look good from the first couple of weeks," he said. "We look to be in a strong position to challenge for the conference championship, send several girls to the state meet and break multiple school records."
The Huskies have reason to hope they'll be able to win often enough to claim a sixth straight Mid-Suburban East title. Senior all-around standout Amanda Petro gives coach Dick Mortensen all kinds of dual-meet flexibility. A three-time state qualifier, she'll likely excel in the 100 and 200 freestyles and 100 backstroke, but she's the kind of swimmer who can make other teams pay in a dual setting thanks to her skill in virtually every event. But the Hersey story doesn't end there. The Huskies return three-fourths of their state-qualifying 400 free relay -- Petro, Kayla Dale and Karolina Szymaszek. Sprinter Lenna Fotos was battling injury toward the end of last season but is healthy once again and could be a key. The continued development of swimmers such as Kelsey O'Donnell, Katie Lutz, Kelly Johnson, Katie Lindholm and Lara Derrig means Hersey is hoping to have improved depth. Freshman Sarah Petro is already contributing to the varsity lineup and classmates Emma Wilcher, Jane Quinn and Stephanie Surkin could soon join her. Mortensen says diving coach Tom Schwab is raving about his group, which runs 10 deep and is led by Hannah Bovino, Megan Nocita and freshman Annie Johnson. "I feel like we are strong on the top end swimming-wise," Mortensen said. "Our younger kids need to step up to fill in our depth at the lower end. I feel like if we are going to contend for the East title, we need to do so as a team. We have to make sure all three swimmers score in each event in dual meets if we want the drive for six to become reality."
Coach Chris Fetterman is looking at a unique situation. The Hawks lost most of the varsity contributors from last year's team to graduation, so the general mode would have to be considered retooling. Fetterman has plenty of material with which to fashion a new identity: both the frosh-soph and JV levels have had the largest turnout in the history of the program. That may not equate to varsity success this year, but the future certainly looks bright. "We haven't had a state qualifier in swimming since 2002," said Fetterman. "Because we have to replace nine quality swimmers, we are in rebuild mode." The proven competitors on whom Fetterman is counting include swimmers Nicole Otero, Jessica Sullivan and Alex Vick and diver Audry Tonkinson. Sophomores Jessica Miller and Megan Bonney also could provide immediate help.
The Warriors have featured Holly Wasicak (IM, breaststroke), Veronica Dunn (distance freestyle), Anne Weber (breaststroke) and sprinters Rachel Lunkes, Zoe Levonyak, Audrey Magnoni and Shannon O'Hagan in the early going, with Katie Pack leading the way in diving.
Last year's edition of Palatine girls swimming featured senior backstroke standout Nicole Huffman and senior diver Stephanie Hamer. They both qualified for the state meet, and Huffman got the Pirates on the scoreboard with a point-scoring effort in the consolation finals of the 100 backstroke. But in duals, Palatine frequently was one swimmer or relay short as the team's overall depth was a challenge for coach Brittany Berleman against the elite teams in the MSL West. Despite the loss of Huffman and Hamer, it's looking like the depth challenge has been answered. Returning are state qualifiers Laura Mayer (200 IM, 100 fly) and Amy Zahn (100 fly) -- a great place to start for any team. Add to them a crop of varsity-ready freshmen and you've got the makings of a vastly improved team. Sprinter Kristin Anderson, backstroker/sprinter Tess O'Brien and flyer/sprinter Lily Zahn provide immediate point-scoring potential and open up plenty of winning relay options. "We should have some fast relays and very strong conference and sectional lineups," Berleman said. "It's very exciting." Just as intriguing is the newfound overall depth in the program. Total participation is up to 48 (after 33 last year), and the bulk of the team will be back next year, too. Of Palatine's 15 varsity swimmers, only three are seniors.
If nothing else, coach Alfonso Lopez will have his meet lineup skills truly tested this year. The Knights graduated breaststroke and sprinting standout Jessica Cavaiani and the Prospect coach is left with a versatile group strong on senior leadership and developing talent. But with so many competitors with similarly well-rounded skills, it may take a while to define roles and specialties. This much is clear: Dana Liva, who won the Mid-Suburban League diving crown as a freshman last year, is back and will be tough to match in duals. Senior Kallie Shields is another standout and can swim just about any event. Senior Molly Gilbertson is the top butterflyer, and sophomore Macey Berkley will contribute immediately in the 200 and 500 free. Others Lopez expects to make a difference include senior Emily Rigopoulos, sophomores Emily McGough, Niki Neumann and Monica Mazurek and freshman Abby Younger. "Our success depends on how fast our young swimmers develop," Lopez said. "The experience that the sophomore class gained last year by swimming up to varsity is already paying off this year in their approach to practice and their commitment to make the team faster. Our goals remain the same -- to compete well in the MSL East and develop our team to win meets, to place well at invites and championship meets and have swimmers and divers make it to state, and hopefully place."
As coach Monika Chiappetta begins season No. 16 with the Mustangs, she has a team with built-in contrasts. There are the seniors -- Neeka Szacilo (who did not swim high school last year), along with established varsity competitors Jessica Dykstra and Meaghan O'Brien. "(Szacilo) has a new focus and burning desire to accomplish as much as she can her senior year," said Chiappetta. "So far in practice, she looks great, very focused. It's nice to have her back in high school swimming." And then there are the freshmen. Bailey Rowley leads a quartet that includes Anna Frantom, Lizzie Hardy and Jessie Ligenza. Rowley, whose club background is with Palatine Park District, will help the varsity lineup immediately. "She has an incredible work ethic with very respectable times," Chiappetta said. "I'm looking forward to watching her get faster as she keeps getting stronger."
Coach Tim Kasper guides one of his youngest teams this fall. Seniors Ashley Johnson (breaststroke) and Ema Cigerova are the exceptions; a solid junior class features reliable juniors Sydney Skibinski (breaststroke, IM, fly), Ellen Nolley (distance), Abigail Langlotz (distance), Madeline Langlotz (sprints), and sophomores Danielle J. Grubb (free, fly) and Danielle E. Grubb (breaststroke) round out the main contributors.
Coach Adam Clementi likes the fact that this year's team seemed to anticipate the high school season nicely. "We are looking strong this season," he said, "with the girls coming into the season in better shape than I have seen in a while." The Lions will be captained by Maureen Daday, Maria Zivoli, Marilyn Stephen and Megan Schreuder. Clementi has a pair of freshmen -- Jackie Rose and Gianna Chu -- he expects to be immediate varsity point-scorers. Nina Byskosh won the 50- and 100-yard freestyles in a Tuesday dual the Lions hosted against Bartlett. Other individual winners in that meet for St. Viator were Rose (200 free), Schreuder (500 free) and Laura Foss (100 back). St. Viator also won freestyle relays -- Foss, Byskosh, Daday and Rose in the 200, and Lilly Miossi, Chu, Daday and Rose in the 400.
The Wildcats seemed to be gathering momentum last season as senior Leah Malsom set the tone for a program that was competitive in MSL duals. Another key to that success was freshman Theresa Godlewski, and she's picked up right where she left off. Coach Lisa Hanrahan reports that Godlewski had best times over the summer in several events. Godlewski broke the 100 backstroke school record that had stood since 1986 last fall, so that's a fine starting point for the team, and also representative of its youth. Wheeling will have six freshmen swimming varsity and just three seniors. Godlewski is also an excellent freestyler; sophomore Shannon Richards will join her in the backstroke and freestyles. Hanrahan is counting on the distance trio of junior Emily Zieger, sophomore Krista Massat and junior Audrey Ambrose. Junior Michaela Rozmus is the top returning sprint freestyler, and her freshman sister Adrienne will help in the breaststroke. Junior Rachel Ropski shows potential in the breaststroke and IM, and the Wildcats will be led by senior captain Katharine Schwarz. Three more freshmen -- Juliana Isayeva, Adrianna Passannante and Javika Shah -- will provide lineup depth immediately. "As a team I think we have great potential and we have great numbers," Hanrahan said. "I think we will be more competitive in the conference. The girls are all hardworking and dedicated, and I look forward to their hard work paying off come conference and sectionals."