A season in which just about everything has fallen into place perfectly for Hersey's girls swimming team continues to line up nicely.
The Huskies, already virtually assured of a sixth straight Mid-Suburban East title, are looking toward other goals, such as competing well in championship formats. Their first real test came at the invitational hosted by Buffalo Grove on Saturday afternoon.
Things got off to a great start as divers Hannah Bovino, Megan Nocita and Anne Johnson delivered a 2-3-4 finish. Subsequent victories in the first three swimming races -- the 200-yard medley relay, the 200 free and the 200 IM -- put the Huskies in command, and they stayed there.
Hersey (491 points) held off an impressive Jacobs/Hampshire co-op team which had no divers but still amassed 400.5 points for second place. Led by sophomore diver Dana Liva's meet record-breaking effort of 415.65, Prospect took third (218), just ahead of the host Bison (213.5), Rolling Meadows (208.5) and Huntley (205).
Senior Amanda Petro provided dominant victories in the 200 free (1:55.76) and 100 backstroke (58.09) for Hersey.
But it was truly a collective effort as Kelsey O'Donnell earned a first-ever invitational win in the 200 IM (2:23.20) and placed second in the 100 fly, and Karolina Szymaszek won the 100 free (56.39) and took second in the 100 breaststroke.
"A lot of times with us, it seems like we're 'Amanda Petro and Co.' " said Hersey coach Dick Mortensen, "but not today. We had people step up throughout.
"Looking at the the heat sheet before the meet, I really through the Jacobs/Hampshire team might be tough to beat. But then, with a 2-3-4 finish in diving, we were really off to a good start."
Hersey won all the relays, but needed a DQ of the fastest 200 freestyle relay effort from the host Bison to do so.
Jacobs/Hampshire started the meet with a bang, as its 'B' medley relay finished second, ahead of the 'A' group. Coach Young Le has a team with excellent all-around depth and plenty of youth on its side.
"We're really pleased with the way the meet went," said Le. "We don't have the kind of top-end swimmers that teams like Hersey and BG have, but for us it's a great chance to compete and see where we fit in against those teams."
Freshman Jacqueline O'Connor had a breakthrough effort in the 100-yard backstroke. Coming into the season, her best time in the race had been 1:13; she placed third Saturday in 1:05.93. O'Connor was also third in the 100 fly; other finishes for Jacobs/Hampshire came from Nicole Sanchez, who placed second in the 100 free and third in the 200 free; Brittany Podczerwinski, who was second in the 200 IM; and Erin Jameson, third in the 100 breaststroke.
Buffalo Grove would have been third if not for its relay disqualification. Senior Veronika Jedryka excelled in winning the 50 free (25.19) and returned to her distance-swimming roots for the 500 free and the opportunity to race Conant sophomore standout Allison Cicero.
Cicero pulled away in the latter stages of the race, winning in a season-best 5:14.05. She also placed second in the 200 free.
"It was just a chance for us to see where Veronika is with the 500," said BG coach Tom Mroz. "That's been such a strong event for her in the past ... and we knew she'd have a good race with Allison in the water."
BG also had a bright spot in the 100 fly, where sophomore Sarah Morosan edged Hersey's O'Donnell for top honors.
As for Cicero, Conant coach Justin Bickus reports that practices have been going well. Cicero recently was repeating about 5:30 on a set of 500s in practice, according to the coach.
"Training's going really well," said Bickus, whose team finished seventh and had the second-fastest 200 free relay with Barbara Rose, Samantha Wooley, Angela Skittone and Cicero. "All our girls have been working hard, and it's starting to show up in races."
Rolling Meadows' top individual finish came with Neeka Szacilo's third-place effort in the 100 free (58.27).
Huntley finished sixth and got fourth-place points from Ali Cazel in the 100 fly.
Cary-Grove placed eighth as third-year coach Scott Lattyak experimented with new events for some of his swimmers. This much hasn't changed: state qualifier Melissa Rose remains a force in the breaststroke; she won in 1:11.13.
"We're working on a few things with her -- pull-outs mainly," said Lattyak.
But finding the best combinations for experienced competitors such as Rose, Emily Griswold and Ashley Mega when paired alongside versatile newcomers like Natalie Hamann, Michelle Follett and Seerat Dhindsa could require further trials.
"We have a lot of different directions we can take with our meet lineup," Lattyak said. "So today was a day to try some of those options."
The top finishes for Dundee-Crown (ninth, 116 points) came from Kellie Mucha in the 200 IM (third, 2:26.75) and Ashley Skoog in the 100 back (third, 1:07.08).
South Elgin's best placement was Emily Trenn in the 500 free (third, 4:45.43), and Elgin's Echo Boehm placed third in the 50 free (26.52).