St. Charles East went 11-for-11 at the St. Charles North girls swimming sectional on Saturday, qualifying athletes in every swimming event for next week's state meet in Evanston.
The Saints take all three relays and a further 11 individual entries to the state meet, though the day came with its share of ups and downs, which is the case with every sectional for every team in every season.
"It was a little action-packed in the beginning," St. Charles East coach Joe Cabel said. "We had some people who weren't rested for this meet and we struggled a little bit. That's part of not resting for the meet is struggling. I think once they got through that, they were fine."
Different swimmers dealt with the day's pressure and accomplishment in different ways. Izzie Bindseil, though unrested for the sectional, put on her fast swimsuit for her 200 freestyle to give herself a mental boost. Bindseil won the event and later qualified in the 500 freestyle as well as both the Saints freestyle relays.
"I think we all did really well," Bindseil said. "I was really nervous about it today, so that's why I wore my suit for the first race. It took the edge off. It's always nerve-wracking, but I had never not tapered for this meet before, so I didn't know how it was going to turn out."
Other Saints to qualify in two events included Mary Snyder in the 200 freestyle and the 100 freestyle; Nicole Chapko in the 200 IM and the 100 breaststroke and Shea Hoyt in the 50 freestyle and the 100 breaststroke.
"It's not the easiest situation with 90 percent of the people in this meet wearing slick suits and you're in your old season suit," Cabel said. "They dealt with it great though."
The Saints have one freshman on the sectional team this year -- Lucy Johnson -- and she qualified for the state meet after finishing second in the 100 butterfly and swimming faster than the state cut.
"I'm really excited because it's obviously my first trip to state," Johnson said. "Before I got on the blocks, I was really nervous. But I'm just really happy to be going on the state team."
When she got on-deck after her swim, Johnson received a group hug from her team and congratulations from the coaching staff.
"It's the best feeling in the world," Johnson said. "My adrenaline was going -- I was so excited. When I looked up on the board, I was nervous. Then when I found out, I was so relieved."
The Saints other qualifiers included Stephanie Garvin in the 500 freestyle and Kate Nagler in the 100 backstroke.
"We had some young people get in and there was some real celebration for them," Cabel said. "But we were really classy. I have to mention Kimmie Scott, who missed early. She never wavered. There wasn't a tear. She swam a great race and had nothing to be ashamed of."
Scott later qualified with the Saints 400 freestyle relay.
St. Charles North coach Rob Rooney started the meet sporting a full beard. Then with each North Stars qualifier, Rooney retired to the coach's office and shaved a portion of the beard from his face. By meet's end, Rooney was sporting a very 80s-looking mustache.
"Well, it's Movember, so I've got to keep this mustache on," Rooney said.
But that level of clean-shaven visage spoke to the successful afternoon the North Stars had. A team that had only one swimmer under the state cut when the day began, St. Charles North qualified all three relays and a further four individual entries for the state meet.
"I'm pretty stoked," Rooney said. "When I spoke at the beginning of the year, we didn't have any state cuts and we didn't have anything even remotely close to it. To where we ended today from where we started, it's a job well-done by them."
Junior Hannah Zimmer set the crowd alight when she won the 100 freestyle from the next-to-last heat.
"It was really an exciting moment," Zimmer said. "Definitely the excitement from the team and everyone in the stands -- it was great feeding off their energy before the swim. And coming out, I knew that I had achieved my goal that I set at the end of last season."
By qualifying all three relays, the North Stars get to take their entire sectional team to compete in the state meet.
"That's really exciting," Zimmer said. "Rooney's really been focusing on the fact that we're a team, that the 'we' is more important than the 'me.'"
Freshman Monica Guyette had a state cut in the 500 freestyle and she was the only North Stars' swimmer with a qualifying time heading into the sectional. Guyette finished third in the event and qualified.
"I already had the time, but knowing that I made it to state in this meet makes me feel a lot better," Guyette said. "I felt a little tired at the end. But I haven't really tapered, so that should be better next week. I think it's going to be really fun."
The North Stars got another surprise when senior Chloe Tykal won the 500 freestyle. Hannah Gursky is the other St. Charles North qualifier. The sophomore finished fifth in the 50 freestyle but was faster than the state cut.
"Every one of these kids swam lights out today," Rooney said. "Obviously this year was very much a rebuilding year for us. Now we've got to teach them what it's like to go to the state meet. We're still walking in there with a lot of freshmen."