After his team had won the Mid-Suburban League meet two weekends ago, ending Barrington's long reign as league champs, Fremd girls swimming coach Andrew Kittrell said he was looking forward to yet another big meet with the Fillies.
"Our girls seem to swim really well when Barrington's in the water with us," he said.
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And that will be the case again Saturday at Stevenson, where the majority of the MSL teams get together in an effort to extend their seasons.
By winning events or by equaling the state qualifying standards at Stevenson, athletes earn the chance to race again in the ultimate competition of the season, the state meet, at Evanston Township High School the following weekend.
Since there's no team advancement to state, the mood is different at sectional meets. Yes, a sectional team champion is declared and gets a trophy, but in a sense, everyone is on the same team -- all the swimmers are trying for career bests, and hoping to stretch out their seasons.
Expect plenty of area individuals to take that next step at Stevenson.
Barrington, which finished second to Fremd at the MSL meet, has a pair of potential individual state meet point-scorers in junior standout Mekenna Scheitlin and freshman Kirsten Jacobsen.
Coach Jim Bart has answered all the lineup questions he had at the start of the year with impressive improvement across the board as competitors such as Andrea Vega, Lisa Danhauer, Olivia Hoffman, Emma Barnett, Kael Ragnini and Kayla Widdowson have stepped up. As a result, all the Barrington relays have a chance to advance, and the 200 and 400 free relays are among the state's very best.
Fremd senior Breanna Anderson has been equaling her best freestyle times all season, even in the middle of tough training, and seems poised for a big finish to her career along with another senior with state meet experience, Kayleen Samuels. Sophomore Erica King made it to state last year and has another great opportunity to do so individually in the 200 and 500 freestyles. The Vikings have several other less experienced swimmers poised to earn their first state trips -- among them Loretta Stelnicki, Julia Portmann, Saki Takumiya, Grace Kneller, Jennie Yang and Emily Jia.
The host Patriots will also field an impressive group. Runner-up by one-half point to Lake Forest last weekend in the North Suburban Conference meet, Stevenson features state meet veterans Madison Blaydes, a senior, and sprinter Julia Wawer, a junior. Those two paired with Riley Kirby and Cheryl Xiang produced a great 400 free relay at the conference meet. Other Patriots individual state hopefuls include Leah Bloodgood, Rebecca Hannon and Casey Kirby.
Senior Amanda Petro leads Hersey's qualifying effort. Already a three-time state meet swimmer, she's among the state's top backstrokers and has excelled of late in the 200 IM, winning both races at the MSL meet. The Huskies also have assembled strong medley and 400 freestyle relays.
Palatine has advancement possibilities with the Zahn sisters -- Lily, a freshman, and Amy, a sophomore. Junior Laura Mayer has a chance to earn another state trip, and the Pirates' added depth means the freestyle relays also have a chance to advance.
Buffalo Grove features three-time state qualifier Veronika Jedryka, who's concentrated on the sprint freestyles this year after making state in previous seasons in the distance freestyles and the backstroke. The Bison also feature an excellent 400 freestyle relay.
Wheeling sophomore Theresa Godlewski has been very close to the state cut in both the 100 backstroke and the 100 freestyle.
Rolling Meadows and Hoffman Estates will be among the other MSL schools taking their shot at state, along with Maine West, St. Viator, Cary-Grove and Dundee-Crown.
In diving, expect the top two finishers at the MSL meet, Prospect sophomore Dana Liva and Hersey junior Hannah Bovino, to compete for sectional title honors.
At all sectional sites, diving begins at 9 a.m., and swimming begins at 1 p.m.
at York: Elk Grove has a pair of swimmers with legitimate individual state meet hopes. Simona Kurta has been near one minute in the 100 fly all season, and freshman Nikki Sugihara has excelled in the sprint freestyles and the backstroke.
Conant sophomore Allison Cicero has been right on pace with her best swims all season in the 200 and 500 freestyles and also has a great chance to advance.
at St. Charles North: Schaumburg is the only area team competing at this site, which will feature strong team efforts from St. Charles East as well as the host North Stars.
Sydney Skibitski took second place in the 100-yard breastroke in the Mid-Suburban League meet and is the Saxons' best hope for a state meet berth.