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updated: 12/22/2012 6:10 PM

Rolling Meadows looking forward to meeting holiday challenges

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And just like that, the first half of the boys swimming season is water under the bridge -- with some choppy conditions coming up.

The holiday break is hardly a vacation for those serious about the sport, as the time not spent in the classroom is channeled into extra practice sessions, and lots of conditioning-building yardage.

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That can lead to mental fatigue on top of the implicit physical challenges, but at Rolling Meadows, that doesn't figure to be a problem.

Coach Monika Chiappetta has the largest team she's ever had at Rolling Meadows, and she reports that the attitude heading into the increased workload is nothing but positive.

"My guys, they're just excited about it," she said. "They're all talking about really putting in the work and having a chance at best times in our first meets after the break."

The Mustangs got a visit from Artie Checchin this week. The program record-holder in the sprint freestyles qualified for the state meet last year, and he was impressed by the spirit and depth the program is showing.

"He was telling our guys that they'll have a chance to do what Artie's teams talked about a lot but could never quite accomplish," Chiappetta said.

Rolling Meadows sophomore Jake Barson has reliably been turning in 1:04's in his 100-yard breastroke, and Ryan Smith had a best time in the 100 backstroke, winning that event in last weekend's Leyden Invitational.

Looking ahead: The meet schedule mostly goes silent now until Saturday, Jan. 5, when Barrington and Fremd compete in the Hinsdale South College Events meet. On the same day, Conant and Schaumburg will be at Maine South's invite, and Buffalo Grove swims at the Vernon Hills invite.

Key Mid-Suburban League dual meets in January include Friday, Jan. 18, when Conant races at Barrington. The Cougars battled illness early in December but have a terrific team and are the defending champs. But Barrington has an incredibly deep group this season, with plenty of senior starpower to lead the way. It's pretty clear that these are the top two teams in the MSL West, so this is the meet that likely will decide the divisional championship.

The MSL East race is less clear. Buffalo Grove took a big step toward defending its title by winning at Hersey, but the Huskies weren't quite at full strength in that meet. Prospect and Wheeling both have taken big steps forward this season and could figure into the title race.

It stands to reason that Friday, Jan. 25 will be a key date as Prospect hosts Buffalo Grove.

Welcome to the team: Hersey's getting a big assist from junior Jack Carroll, who up until this season had spent the winter months playing basketball for the Huskies.

Coach Dick Mortensen was familiar with him from coaching water polo, and Carroll excelled as a playmaker, setting a program record for assists in a season as a sophomore last spring.

It turns out Carroll is a quick study in the pool. Some basic technique tweaks have led to impressive time drops, as he's regularly been clocked at 23 seconds in the 50 free and 52 in the 100 free.

"He was doing things like trying to start his armstroke underwater when he was coming off his walls," said Mortensen. "We just worked on getting him to hold his streamline after his start, and on turns. He's a good listener, and that really helps, but it's also ... he's just an athlete. That makes a difference."

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