Naperville Central first-year diving coach David Likar is impressed by the tremendous amount of talent he has on his Redhawks team.
The Redhawks won the team title at last weekend's 11-dive Metea Valley Diving Invite by placing the top three finishers and four of the top six. And each of those big four are in a different grade, so there's a good chance that the Redhawks golden era of diving has just begun.
The winner last week was senior Molly Schatz with 374.40 points. Schatz, a two-time state qualifier, is looking to make it to the top 12 this year for the first time.
"We have 14 girls," said Likar, a long-time club diving coach. "And our top six would be a star diver on most teams. As a group this is the strongest team of girls I've ever coached. It's just a shame we can only have two on our sectional team."
"Molly has excellent board work," Likar added. "She gets some of the best height in the state, which gives her some of the best front doubles. She gets off very clean and gets more drop time, finishing her dives higher. Her higher finishes impress the judges. Molly's performance at Metea will give her more confidence for the rest of the season. She's very businesslike. I'm really impressed with how she's been diving."
Likar said Schatz has a solid 11-dive list that she's perfecting and expects her to be "mentally prepared" for this year's state meet.
In second place with 368-85 points was sophomore Sophia Heiser, who was the Redhawks' second sectional diver last year and missed making the state cut by a few points.
"Sophia can spin like a top," Likar said. "She has great control on the more difficult dives, which gives her an advantage over many of her competitors."
Finishing third at Metea Valley with 351.50 points was freshman Sydney Dusel, a converted gymnast who has been diving in club less than a year.
"It's amazing how much she's picked up in such a short time," Likar said. "She needs to improve on her board-work, but she's becoming a star. She'll be stronger and gain more control as she matures."
In sixth place was Brittany Mitchell with 316.30 points, a junior who last week's home meet against West Aurora.
"Brittany has eight or nine solid dives," Likar said. "And with those dives she can compete with anybody. She just needs to be more consistent with her last two or three dives."
"Any one of those four are capable of winning any meet," Likar added. "They're all pushing each other to get better. Despite the competition, they still function very well as a team. Molly will be on the sectional team, but I have a tough decision to make to fill that second spot."
Committed to the sport:
This is shaping up as the best year ever for the Addison Trail-Willowbrook swimming team.
One of several DuPage County teams without a home pool, the co-op team practiced at an outdoor facility until Labor Day and has since been sharing the pool with older club members at a local health club.
They also spend about an hour a day on the bus, which picks the girls up at both schools and then drives them to practice and back.
"They don't get home until after 7 p.m.," coach Paul Anderson said. "But they get their homework done on the bus and they have just made the commitment to handle everything."
The coach hopes and believes that this commitment will produce state qualifiers in three relays and six individual swims.
At the Lockport Invitational on Labor Day weekend the Addison Trail-Willowbrook team set meet records in both free relays.
The same four girls are on both free relays. Three returning from last year's team -- senior Colleen Kraczykowski and sophomores, Kelly McNamara and Molly Kuenstler, and they'll be joined by sophomore Gabriella Morrone.
"At the Lyons Twp. Invite we finished in the top five in all three relays," Anderson said. "And we were well ahead of last year's times at this point in the year in both free relays."
Anderson is also optimistic about the 200 medley relay, which took a bit more construction work as sophomore Molly Hill is the only returner from last year's sectional lineup.
Hill has been joined by Morrone in the breaststroke, McNamara in the butterfly and Krawczykowski as the freestyler.
The coach believes that McNamara can score at state in both the butterfly and the 200 freestyle and that Kraczykowski, who qualified last year in the 100 freestyle, and Kuenstler, who qualified last year in the 50 freestyle, can make it to state and challenge in either or both of the freestyle sprints.
"These girls on the relays are our best swimmers and any of them could qualify in their individual events," Anderson said. "We're swimming a tougher schedule this year in order to give them the experience they'll need to prepare. I believe they're up to the challenge"
The Addiston Trail-Willowbrook girls also have their eyes on the West Suburban Gold title.