Saturday's Neuqua Valley swimming invitatiional proved once again that the Wildcats' Gia Dalesandro is eager to do anything she can to help the team.
The senior, who finished third at state in the 100 butterfly and fourth in the 100 backstroke, arrived past the halfway point of Saturday's meet after taking the ACT, and she played a big part in the Wildcats' team title by winning two individual races and anchoring the victorious 400 freestyle relay team.
Dalesandro was at the pool for only five minutes when she was thrust into the 500 freestyle, an event she's raced only once in high school competition. She won the 500 free in 5:03.49, finished first in the 100 backstroke in a meet-record 57.37 and then participated in the 400 freestyle relay with Brooke Bedford, Riley Schroedter and Grace Soltys, which brought home the Wildcats team victory in 3:37.59.
"The 500 is a long race, but it's fun to do it every now and then," Dalesandro said. "I'm OK with swimming everything. Coach (Brandon King) puts me where he wants me and needs me. It's no big deal."
"We were a little down because we lost two relays," King said. "Megan Childs was gone on a recruiting trip and Mia wasn't there for the first half of the meet. She went into the 500 without a warm-up and dropped two seconds. Every time I put her in an event I'm pretty sure she can win. It's great when we can win the 400 free relay and go out on a high note."
The Wildcats, who also got a win from Soltys in the 200 freestyle, finished the meet with 525 points. Second-place Downers Grove North, which won the other two relays, was second with 377 points and Peoria Notre Dame was third with 325. Metea Valley, had its highest finish ever in the Neuqua Valley Invite, coming in fourth with 311 point, while Wheaton co-op and Waubonise Valley were tied for fifth with 258 points.
St. Charles North was sixth with 186 points, but the North Stars won the frosh-soph competition, and West Aurora, which had Shannon Sullivan and Kayla Hickernell finish 1-2 in the diving, was eighth with 84 points.
Waubonsie Valley junior Madeline Hunt broke the meet record by winning the 50 freestyle in 24.17 and also won the 100 freestyle in 53.26.
"Madeline thrives on doing her best times in big meets," said Waubonsie Valley coach Katie Peterson.
The Warriors' Alexa Steffl won the 100 breaststroke in 1:09.69
Downers Grove South's Maddy Sims swam a 2:09.99 to win the 200 IM and her sister Gabby won the 100 butterfly in 57.11 with Maddy finishing second.
The Sims sisters were also on the 200 medley relays team that broke the meet record in 1:49.95 along with Daria Wick and Emily Albrecht.
St. Charles North coach Rob Rooney was happy with the work of several of his varsity swimmers, most notably, Chloe Tykel, who finished third in the 500 freestyle, and Kennedi Norris.
And he praised frosh-soph winners Hannah Gursky, who broke the meet record in the 50 freestyle in 25.54, Katie Schutz who won the frosh-soph diving competition with 154.20 points, as well as Monica Guyett (200 free), Kristen Kowaleski (200 IM) and Serena Allendorfer (100 free) all of whom won individual events in the frosh-soph division, where the North Stars won all three relays.
"We had all of our top younger kids swim the frosh-soph meet to give them a boost in confidence for the future," Rooney said.
West Aurora's Sullivan, who missed making last year's state diving cut by only a few points is confident that both she and her teammate Hickernell will qualify this year.
"I worked on my techniques at a two-week diving camp over the summer," said Sullivan, also a highly rated gymnast. "I feel pretty prepared for the state meet. This was our first big meet of the season and it went well. Kayla and I encourage each other and we give each other tips at practice and at meets."
West Aurora coach Chris Ranallo said: "For Shannon and Kayla to put up 353.20 and 337.70 point totals at this time of the year is phenomenal."