There was just no way to stop Kirsten Jacobsen from smiling in the final third of Saturday's IHSA girls swim finals -- and really, no one wanted to try.
Jacobsen, a Barrington freshman, produced one of the performances of the meet when she improved from a fourth seeding and claimed the state title in the 500-yard freestyle.
The happiness started early, when Jacobsen looked at the scoreboard, saw that she had won, accepted congratulations from second-place finisher Morgan Dickson from Libertyville and waved at her friends and family in the stands.
"It's been exciting," Jacobsen said. "I did not expect to win that."
Jacobsen is the first Barrington state titlist since Emily Fogle won the 100 breaststroke titles in 2008 and 2009. Jacobsen said the key to the victory came early in the race, when she surged to stay with the front-runners, including Dickson and Normal U-High's Hannah Boyd.
"Normally, I wait to go fast until the last 100," Jacobsen said. "Today, I tried to stay with everyone in the first half. And then in the last half, I just tried put as much as I could into it, and I guess it works."
Jacobsen had a solid meet overall. She finished third in the 200 freestyle and was part of the Fillies' 200 freestyle relay which finished ninth and the 400 freestyle relay, which placed 11th.
"It's a challenge now to keep my game up," Jacobsen said. "I hope, in the next years, I do as well as I did this year."
Barrington finished ninth as a team and had a sixth-place finish from Mekenna Scheitlin in the 50 freestyle. Both of Jacobsen's swims as well as Scheitlin's set school records.
"We did very well," Barrington coach Jim Bart said. "We were hoping for a top 10 finish coming and and we finished ninth. Overall, we swam very well. The kids did a good job and most of them are coming back."
Bart said he was pleased with the way his team worked through adversity through the weekend and excelled when given the chance.
"The kids showed a lot of character," he said. "We had a little bit of a roller coaster (Friday), but we came back and did OK today. So we're happy."
There was a large group of Barrington swimmers who watched Saturday's final, and got to see not only their own team's strong performance but one of the fastest days of swimming in IHSA history. Glenbrook South senior Olivia Smoliga set national records in the 50 freestyle and the 100 backstroke and Glenbrook South's 400 freestyle relay team broke the state record as well. The team title went for the third time in a row and the 12th time overall to New Trier, which claimed a 166-157 victory over Fenwick. Neuqua Valley finished third.
"It's building for the future," Bart said. "These are our potential state qualifiers for next year and I hope they learned a lot today. It's definitely a shot in the arm to know that one of the kids they train with on a daily basis can compete at this level."
Prospect diver Dana Liva finished sixth after the final three rounds of the competition were completed.
"I'm happy with myself," Liva said. "I improved by six spots, from 12th last year. That's a big improvement and I'm happy about it."
Liva stood fifth after Friday's prelims, which comprised eight dives. Of her three dives on Saturday, the best was a forward 2.5 somersault dive which she performed as her 10th dive in the 11-dive competition.
"I was extremely happy about it," Liva said. "I was confident in it. When I actually got in the air, I was like 'this is going to be good.'"
As a sophomore, Liva is at the midpoint of her diving career, and she has two state medals to show for her efforts.
"It's definitely going to leave me with experience for how to handle myself next year," Liva said. "I have an idea what to do and what not to do in order to prepare myself for next year."
Buffalo Grove had one representative in the state meet, and Veronika Jedryka finished eighth in the 50 freestyle and fourth in the 100 freestyle.
"My goal for making it back in two finals races was accomplished yesterday," Jedryka said. "I just tried to have fun, race hard and enjoy every moment since it's my last year here."
Vedryka had plenty of on-deck support, including the other members of the 200 freestyle relay that qualified but did not advance to Saturday's finals.
"I was really grateful that I made top 6 in the 100," Jedryka said. "That was one of my goals since I was seeded third going into the meet. Both of those races were very important to me. I wouldn't have accomplished all that I have without my family, my coaches and my friends. It is sad that it's ending, but it's been the best four years of my life. I'm not sad because it's ending. I'm happy because it happened."
Hersey's Amanda Petro capped a strong career by finishing third in the 100 backstroke and seventh in the 200 IM. Her third-place finish in the backstroke is the best by a Hersey swimmer since Kelli Davis finished second in the 100 butterfly in 1981.