Gia Dalesandro thought she'd give the 200-yard individual medley a try this year.
After scoring in the top six at the 2011 girls state swimming meet in the 100 backstroke and 100 butterfly, the Neuqua Valley senior was up for the challenge in her senior year in 2012.
It looks as though the experiment worked out.
Dalesandro won both the 200 IM and the 100 butterfly at the state swimming and diving meet Saturday to help lead Neuqua Valley to a third-place finish at state. All three Wildcats relays made the top six.
Benet's Taylor Kramer won the state diving championship, and Downers Grove North's Gabby Sims won the 100 freestyle.
"I thought it would be fun and it would be different," Dalesandro said about swimming the 200 IM. "I want to swim in college where you have to do every stroke and that goal, along with support of my coaches and my teammates, pushed me forward all year."
Dalesandro spent the year developing a strategy for the race and working on all four strokes, especially the breaststroke, which she calls her weakest.
In the finals Dalesandro was confident that she could stay with early IM leader Morgan Dickson of Libertyville in the butterfly. But she said a strong backstroke was the key because she was going to lose some ground in the breaststroke.
"As I expected, the breaststroke was draining me," Dalesandro said. "I was using my kick a lot and trying to funnel my energy into the freestyle. (Naperville Central's) Julia Roller, who was next to me, was really challenging. We have similar strokes, but she's good in the breaststroke."
Dalesandro was confident once she turned for home in the freestyle.
She touched at 2:02.53, and Roller was second in 2:03.11.
` "I still need a lot of work in the breaststroke," Dalesandro said. "But this win was satisfying."
In the 100 butterfly Dalesandro trailed Mimi Schneider of Fenwick for the first 50 yards and then turned on the speed.
"I knew if I could hang with her and catch her at the 75-yard turn, I would bring it back home," Dalesandro said.
Roller finished fifth in that race.
The Wildcats placed all three of their relays in the top six, starting off the day with a fourth-place finish in the 200 medley relay with Natalie McGovern, Megan Childs, Dalesandro and Riley Schroedter doing the work.
Later, the Wildcats' 200 free relay team of Schroedter, Sydney Gathe, Brooke Bedford and Childs finished third, and the 400 free relay team of Schroedter, Childs, Grace Soltys and Dalesandro came in fifth.
"We had no idea until yesterday that our team had a chance to finish third in the team standings," Bedford said. "That and Gia's wins really pushed us through the relays. Gia has been a strong leader all season."
In order to finish third, the Wildcats scored 99 points. State champion New Trier had 166 points to win the meet, and Fenwick scored 157 to finish second. Downers Grove North was sixth with 73 points, and Naperville Central was seventh with 62.
Benet's Kramer went into Saturday's three-dive final in second place 11 points behind the leader. She hit all her dives to finish with 414.25, four ahead of runner-up Michelle Kalupski of Fenwick.
"I had a period of a little doubt earlier in the season," said Kramer, who finished sixth at state last year. "My problem was that I could do the dives in practice and then I would crack under the pressure of the meet. Then I started doing the dives well at the meets. When I won the Evanston Diving Meet late in the season, I thought, 'I can do that.' I knew if I was consistent today I could make up those 11 points. I was very calm throughout the meet."Copyright © 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.