It's sometimes easy to look at the future of a program, especially when the future looks especially bright -- which is the glow that currently comes from St. Charles East girls swim team.
But look too much into the future and you forget the present -- and the Saints were pretty good this year. You only had to watch swimmers such as senior Nicole Chapko to reminded that the graduating Class of 2013 has left its imprint on the team's history.
"I definitely think we've gotten a lot stronger as the years have gone on," Chapko said. "I think it needs to keep growing stronger. I think they're going to have a great freshman class next year. By the time those girls are sophomores and juniors, I think we'll be pretty good."
Chapko capped her career in Saturday's finals in Evanston by finishing ninth in the 200-yard individual medley, sixth in the 100 breaststroke and then swam a leg on the Saints 12th-placed 400 freestyle relay.
"I was pretty happy with the way the day went overall," Chapko said. "I would have liked to have gone a little faster. But for the most part, I was happy."
On a day when the finals stretched to more than four hours, fatigue became a factor for athletes enduring the crowded deck where the air temperature was noticeably warmer than the hallways surrounding the pool.
"I was OK after the IM and before the breast, I was feeling good," Chapko said. "But then after the breast, we had about five minutes before the free relay. That was a little tough."
This year's state meet was one literally for the record books. On Saturday alone, Glenbrook South senior Olivia Smoliga set national records in the 50 freestyle and the 100 backstroke. She and her Titans teammates broke the 400 freestyle relay record in the meet's final event.
And all that success left Glenbrook South fourth. The team title went to New Trier for the third straight year and the 12th time overall. The Trevians won the meet 166-157 over Fenwick while Neuqua Valley finished third.
Overall, St. Charles East finished 13th as a team and have plenty of reason for optimism for the future.
"We swam faster today, and we like to do that on Saturdays," St. Charles East coach Joe Cabel said.
A year after only having senior Emma Smith in the finals, the Saints had five individual swims and their 400 freestyle relay in competition on Saturday.
"We're headed in the right direction," Cabel said. "We've got to take little steps along the way, and the girls did a nice job setting it up for the future."
Saints junior Izzie Bindseil capped her second trip to the state meet with her first individual medal when she swam to ninth place in the 500 freestyle.
"I really wanted to make it back to Saturday this year," Bindseil said. "After the 200, I was really nervous about the 500. So it was nice to make it back. And then I was really happy about the swim I had in finals."
The other senior swimming individual races for the Saints on Saturday was Mary Snyder, who finished 11th in the 200 freestyle and 12th in the 100 freestyle.
"My 200, I felt pretty good about it," Snyder said. "It wasn't as fast as (Friday), but I went the same time I went as Senior Champs last year. It felt good to go fast and also being here in finals."
While she scored with the Saints medley relay as a sophomore, this year marked Snyder's first individual races in the state finals.
"I've never done that before, so it was kind of shocking to me," Snyder said. "But my team supported me and I had a lot of other people supporting me, so it's just been really fun."
Like Chapko, Snyder's career ended at this year's finals.
"It's amazing to think of four years of this work and then that it ends like this, it's just awesome," Snyder said.
Junior Shea Hoyt was the Saints other scoring individual when she swam to seventh place in the 100 breaststroke. Hoyt's time was the fourth-fastest in the finals. But swimmers cannot "jump" from the consolation heat to place in the championship heat. Still. Hoyt's time was an improvement on her prelims mark.
"I was disappointed in my swims (Friday)," Hoyt said. "Overall, I got my best time in finals, so that feels good. I'm really glad I pulled it out. I didn't feel that good yesterday. But today, I felt fast."
Hoyt already has some of her goals for the 2013 season laid out.
"Hopefully I'll be in the A heat and place in the top 3 or so." she said. "I'm going to train really hard for next year -- and then watch out for me."
Snyder, Bindseil and Chapko teamed with senior Kimmie Scott to swim the 400 freestyle relay.
While the rest of the St. Charles North state team got to stay up a little on Friday night, freshman Monica Guyette had to get to bed. Then again, the reason for her early bedtime was the best reason -- she qualified for the finals of the 500 freestyle. Saturday, Guyette finished 12th in the event.
"It's been a roller coaster ride," Guyette said. "Coach (Rob Rooney) always tells us that. Sometimes you go your best and sometimes you're not that great."
Guyette becomes the third St. Charles North swimmer -- after Catherine Nosal (2002-2005) and Jessica England (2008) to score in the 500 freestyle.
"At the beginning of the year, I started at 5:12." Guyette said. "To drop all the way down to 5:01 (Friday) has been great. Now that I know that I dropped all that time, I know next year that I can go better, keep dropping time and improve."
Rosary had two individual swims in the state finals. Erin Hart finished 11th in the 100 freestyle and earned her first state medal.
"I hoped to get into the top 6, but the state is a lot faster than I expected," Hart said. "I was grateful to be able to get into the top 12 at all."
Hart said the experience she gained this year will benefit next year's Beads in two ways. It benefits her personally because she has the experience of scoring at the state meet. But that experience can help the entire team, she said.
"We have such a young team," Hart said. "I can now share with people who come onto the team and the freshmen we have on the team how state goes and what it's like to go to the state meet and then swim again in finals."
Rosary's other finals swimmer was freshman Annie Gosselin, who finished ninth in the 100 backstroke.
"Coming into this meet, I didn't know what to expect," Gosselin said. "I mean, I've watched it online and I was here just watching it last year. But it's totally different from a spectator's standpoint to a swimmer's standpoint."
The state pool deck is a sauna with all the swimmers and coaches and spectators. Further, it is loud, for all those people are in one very confined space.
"It is very intense," Gosselin said. "There is a lot of energy. And it is so fast -- it is a lot different from age-group."