It wasn't too long ago, Karolina Szymaszek's lack of self-confidence was a kind of running joke on Hersey's girls swimming team.
"We used to call her 'Stuart Smalley,' " said Hersey coach Dick Mortensen, referencing an old Saturday Night Live routine. "You know, 'I'm good enough, I'm smart enough ... "
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And yes, now people really do like Szymaszek -- especially her own teammates. More importantly, Szymaszek seems to like herself a whole lot more in this, her senior year.
That was clear Thursday at Palatine, where two of the Mid-Suburban League's better teams got together for an early season dual. Szymaszek had legs on Hersey's winning 200-meter medley and 400 freestyle relays in addition to winning the 100 free and taking second in the 200.
Another terrific Hersey senior, Amanda Petro, had wins on those same relays and won the 200 IM and 100 backstroke as the Huskies won 116-70.
"Looking back on it now, I think I just kind of had a negative attitude about things," said Szymaszek, reflecting on her Smalley-themed sophomore year. "I'm not sure why it's different now, but I'm just enjoying it a lot more."
So is Mortensen. With swim-anything seniors like Szymaszek and Petro, making out the dual lineup offers all kinds of possibilities as the Huskies pursue what would be their sixth straight MSL East victory.
"I tell our girls all the time, if we finish 1-4-5 or 2-3-4 in everything and pick up a bunch of points in diving, then we're going to win meets," he said.
That was pretty much the formula at Palatine. A vastly improved Pirates team had its fair share of event-winners -- Amy Zahn in the 200 and 400 freestyles, Lily Zahn in the 100 fly and Kristin Anderson in the 50 free. Junior standout Laura Mayer led off Palatine's winning 200 free relay with teammates Amy Zahn, Lily Zahn and Anderson. Mayer also had a strong leg on the second-place 400 free relay, but she was a last-minute scratch in her individual events as she tried to mend a strained calf muscle.
Hersey used a 1-2 diving effort from Hannah Bovino (201.95) and Megan Nocita (161.20) and a 1-2-3 finish in the 100 breaststroke led by freshman Sarah Petro to get some separation in the final score.
"I think the thing for us is that we're learning we can never stop working," said Palatine coach Brittany Berleman. "We had some bright spots here -- a freshman like Kristin Anderson coming up big and winning the 50 -- but also a few disappointments. I thought we had a couple of cases where we took ourselves out of races, and you just can't do that against a team like Hersey."
Barrington 127, Buffalo Grove 58: Freshman Kirsten Jacobsen broke a Fillies record in the 500-yard freestyle, winning in 5:00.80 as host Barrington won in MSL action.
Jacobsen also won the 200 IM (2:16.48), and Mekenna Scheitlin won the 100 fly and the 100 breaststroke for the Fillies.
Veronika Jedryka won twice (50 free, 100 free) and joined teammates Callie Fasching, Sarah Morosan and Margaret Lotzer on the winning freestyle relays.
Conant 117, Wheeling 69: Host Conant won two of the three relays and got wins in the 50 and 500 frees from Paulina Wolska.
Sophomore Theresa Godlewski won an unusual back-to-back double, the 100 fly (1:11.86) and the 100 free (1:02.90).
Schaumburg 111, Elk Grove 69: The host Saxons won the 200-meter medley and 200 free relays and got event wins from Abigail Langlotz (200 ffee), Madeline Langlotz (100 free) and Sydney Skibinski (100 breast) in topping the Grens.
Elk Grove had a double winner in Simona Kurta (100 fly, 50 free).
Fremd 100, Rolling Meadows 67: The visiting Vikings won each race plus diving, and got individual events victories from sophomore Erica King (200 free, 100 back).
Prospect 112, Hoffman Estates 71: Ellie McGough and Nicole Neumann each won a pair of races to lift the visiting Knights.