The crowd has been boisterous through Saturday's Upstate Eight Conference meet at St. Charles East.
But when it came time for the 400-yard freestyle relay, the team benches started cheering louder. Neuqua Valley and St. Charles East swimmers were at a higher decibel.
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And when the student public address announcer shouted, "Let's Get Ready to Rumble!", the fans got into it as well.
And for good reason.
Going into that final event, Neuqua led only by four points in the team standings, 262-258. The winner of the 400 relay would leave the pool league champs.
The Wildcats and the Saints were in lanes next to each other and each enjoyed a lead that could be measured in inches, maybe no more than a hard during a majority of the race. But Neuqua prevailed, winning in 3:33.47 with the St. Charles East quartet of Mary Snyder, Izzie Bindseil, Stephanie Garvin and Kimmie Scott clocking in at 3:35.59. The Wildcats' Riley Schroedter, Megan Childs, Grace Soltys and Gia Dalesandro set a new UEC record, eclipsing the old mark of 3:33.51.
The win put Neuqua permanently in the driver's seat with a team score of 294 for its fourth straight conference title. The Saints finished with 284 and St. Charles North was third at 189.
"We knew it was going to be close. We're very happy," said Dalesandro, who was also on the winning 200 medley relay in addition to winning the 200 and 500 freestyle races. "Everyone put in the work and showed that even with some not tapered, we won. And that's all you can ask."
Neuqua coach Brandon King wasn't surprised by how close the meet was and stressed that to his team.
"I told them last night (Friday) that we would be in good races with good teams. St. Charles East is a very good team," he said. "If you went by the heat sheet, we were supposed to lose by 10 points. But we overcame a couple of spots where we were supposed to lose."
With two weeks until sectional competition and not every one in tapered mode yet, the time drops weren't major Saturday according to King.
"For some girls, this is their last meet of the season and to see them get time drops was awesome," he said.
Neuqua also won UEC titles in the 100 butterfly where Brooke Bedford won in 59.78 and the 200 medley relay of Natalie McGovern, Childs, Dalesandro and Schroedter placed in 1:48.23, breaking the old UEC mark of 1:49.08.
Dalesandro won the 200 freestyle (1:52.50) and 500 freestyle (5:02.79) and normally doesn't compete in those races. She'll swim the 100 butterfly and 200 individual medley at Nov. 10's St. Charles North Sectional.
St. Charles East won four individual league titles. The 200 freestyle relay of Snyder, Garvin, Nicole Chapko and Shea Hoyt finished in 1:38.55. Chapko won the 200 individual medley (2:07.48), Hoyt the 100 breaststroke (1:05.89) and Mary Snyder won the 100 freestyle (53.35).
Hoyt battled with teammate Chapko during the entire 100 breaststroke, edging her 1:05.89 to 1:06.42.
"It's great (competing against each other). We train together and because of that we're able to push each other," Chapko said.
Saints coach Joe Cabel said his team battled in a way a squad should at this time of the season.
"We weren't looking for time drops. If we can get time drops, great. But we wanted to swim tough and that's what we did today," he said.
The rest of the individual UEC titles went to Metea's Kelsey Pukelis in diving (327.80 points) and Amanda Burson in the 50 freestyle (24.34) with Waubonsie Valley's Madeline Hunt winning the 100 backstroke (58.81).
Other UEC schools joining host St. Charles North and St. Charles in sectional competition will be Bartlett Co-op, Elgin Co-op and South Elgin.
Metea hosts its own sectional, also Nov. 10, with Neuqua and Waubonsie in that lineup.