Libertyvilles Dickson leads the way at state
Wildcats hugging Patriots?
Mustangs hanging out with both of the above?
Yes, in girls swimming, competitors from Stevenson, Mundelein and Libertyville get along just fine.
For the three-quarters of the calendar year that does not include high school swimming, many of them are teammates on the Patriot Aquatic Club.
So it's easy for them to put their prep differences aside and cheer for one another at the high school state meet.
The preliminaries were held Friday at Evanston Township High School, and it turns out there was plenty to cheer about.
Libertyville senior Morgan Dickson was thrilled to see Stevenson senior Madison Blaydes break the five-minute barrier in the 500-yard freestyle.
"These girls are my best friends, they're awesome," said Dickson. "We're all pulling for each other here. We always talk about, if we all went to the same high school, we'd be the best team here."
Dickson would be a great place to start any high school team. She's the top qualifier for Saturday's finals in the 200 IM (2:03.69) and has the second-fastest effort in the 500 free (4:53.45). She hinted that her Friday effort in the 500 was conservative, and she hopes to better her lifetime best of 4:49 Saturday.
"For me, today was just about making sure I got in (to finals)," she said. "Everything went well, so, tomorrow it's time to race."
Blaydes could probably use a friendly face after her tough regimen. She competes in the 500 free, the 100 backstroke and the 400 free relay, which is three of the last five events of the meet.
She finished seventh in the 500 free in 4:59.17 and 11th in the 100 back, then still had enough left for a key leg on Stevenson's finals-qualifying 400 free relay alongside Julia Wawer, Cheryl Xiang and Riley Kirby.
"That's a tough finish for anybody," said Stevenson coach Karl Milkereit, "but it's the right call for her."
"Seventh is kind of a tough spot, but what're you gonna do?" Blaydes said. "I'm happy to get under five minutes. I took it out a little bit too hard and I kind of paid for that later, so hopefully I can be a little better (Saturday)."
The Patriots also advanced the 200 medley relay of Blaydes, Leah Bloodgood, Rebecca Hannon and Kirby to the consolation finals, and junior Wawer gives Stevenson another big individual point scorer with forthcoming appearances in the 200 free championship heat and the 100 free consolation heat.
"This was the first time here with Julia with the expectation that we'd really be seeing her get some Saturday swims," said Milkereit, "and she handled it really well."
Also handling the state meet experience exceptionally well was Mundelein sophomore Erin Falconer.
She has the second-best qualifying time in the 100 freestyle (50.99) and the third-best in the 200 free (1:50.46) and will have legs on both of the Mustangs' freestyle relays, which will compete in the consolation heat.
The top 12 finishers from prelims get another chance to race Saturday, as the swimming and diving finalists compete one more time in a session that begins at 1 p.m.
Glenbrook South senior Olivia Smoliga again wowed fans with two state record-breaking swims Friday. She won the 50 free in 22.21, and the 100 backstroke in 51.84.
Other top qualifiers included Hannah Boyd of Normal University in the 200 and 500 freestyles, Gia Dalesandro of Neuqua Valley in the 100 fly, Gabby Sims of Downers Grove North in the 100 free and Riley Hayward of New Trier in the 100 breaststroke.
New Trier is positioned to win its third straight team championship after a dominant performance in the prelims.
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