By Darryl Mellema
Daily Herald Correspondent
Coach: Bill Schalz
What happened last year: The Beads tied for 34th in the state meet, were 7-1 in dual meets and finished third in the SCC.
Losses to graduation: None.
Top returnees: Erin Hart, Jr.; Annie Gosselin, So.; Kate Canfield, Jr.; Jill Bottarini, Jr.; Katie Rentz, Jr.; Elaina Ricci, Jr.; Georgia Young, So.
Key newcomers: Alex Yeager, Fr. Heather House, Fr.
Outlook: Following a successful regular season in 2012, the Beads struggled at the state meet and scored just six points. But the core of that squad returns after a series of strong club seasons. And such is the team's youth that few or none of the team's postseason team are likely to be seniors this year. As he is usually able to do, Rosary coach Bill Schalz ran through his squad's chances -- athlete by athlete and then summed it up by saying, "If we get four of our girls in the top six and get some points in the top 12, the best case scenario is that we could possibly get a trophy," Schalz said. "And that's a lot considering we're coming from 34th last year. I think we're definitely capable of a top 10 finish and then it's what we can accomplish from that." The Beads return state finalists Erin Hart and Annie Gosselin. The pair have had different off-seasons. Hart was recently allowed to start swimming after recovering from shoulder surgery. "She's been working with a kickboard and kicking for several months. That makes your legs strong and her kicking has been great." Gosselin had a strong summer and returns for her sophomore year. Sophomore Katie Rentz has yet to swim for Rosary after suffering a dislocated shoulder prior to her freshman season. "She's in very good shape and worked very hard in the off-season and we are excited about how she's going to do," Schalz said. Freshman Alex Yeager was a junior national qualifier in the summer in the 200-yard breaststroke. "The cool thing is we have no seniors and we only have one senior on JV," Schalz said. "Last year we joked that the team we were seeing would be the team we'd be seeing the next two years, and then we picked up Alex Yaeger, who is an awesome breaststroker and freestyler."
St. Charles East
Coach: Joe Cabel
What happened last year: The Saints finished 14th in the state meet, won an IHSA Sectional and were 11-1 in dual meets.
Losses to graduation: Mary Snyder, Nicole Chapko, Kimmie Scott, Jacquelyn Blondin.
Key returnees: Izzie Bindseil, Sr.; Shea Hoyt, Sr.; Stephanie Garvin, Sr.; Lucy Johnson, So.; Isabel Herb, So.; Dana Ritter, Sr.; Jamie Cranfill, Sr.; Kate Nagler, Jr.; Bridgett Flesher, Sr.; Lauren McCormack, Jr.; Britta Gesell, Jr.; Sydney Anderson, Sr.
Top newcomers: Jordan Morling, So.; Anna O'Malley, Fr.; Dominique Carravetta, Fr.; Molly Moss, Fr.; Sophie Watts, Fr.; Amy Pearson, Fr.; Rachel Nagler, Fr.
Outlook: In a state meet where relays were key for St. Charles East, Izzie Bindseil provided an individual spark when she finished ninth in the 500-yard freestyle. She returns for her senior season after a strong off-season. "She's at the top of the depth chart," St. Charles East coach Joe Cabel said. "She had a fantastic summer, trained real hard and had a big finish. She leads by example." Cabel said Bindseil's attitude is one of the keys to her success. "She's somebody who really enjoys it," Cabel said. "She likes swimming, being a part of the team and camaraderie. She works really hard in practice and helps make it easy for her teammates." Sophomore Lucy Johnson had a strong summer and among the top newcomers is sophomore Jordan Morling. "We have 12 seniors," Cabel said. "We're strong at the top and we also have 17 freshmen. We're very balanced in all four grades at this time." For a team that has historically had strong relays and a solid back half of its meets, St. Charles East has talent in the early events of its dual meet team this season. "We've got good speed and the front end of the meet favors speed," Cabel said. "It's always kind of hard to identify what a team is going to be early in the season." The Saints do team-building through an extended preseason, but will still hit Cabel's goal of 600,000 yards this year. "Everybody says I start a little later than everybody else," Cabel said. "We did our first 7,000-yard practice this week. We take our time, but we get there in the end. We'll keep them busy."
St Charles North
Coach: Robert Rooney
What happened last year: The North Stars finished second at their IHSA Sectional and were third in the Upstate Eight Conference.
Losses to graduation: Chloe Tykal.
Top returnees: Monica Guyett, So; Sammy Sauer, Serena Allendorfer, So.; Kristen Kowaleski, So.; Hannah Zimmer, Sr.; Loriel Hutchinson, Sr.; Katie Schultz, Jordan Paulson.
Key newcomers: Abby Ponte.
Outlook: After a 2012 season where freshman Monica Guyett's 12th-place finish in the 500-yard freestyle provided the team its only state meet points, optimism returns again for the North Stars this season. "We have a young group of girls, maybe a little smaller roster than in some years, but we're looking forward to the season," St. Charles North coach Rob Rooney said. Rooney said Guyett had a strong offseason and is ready for her sophomore campaign. "She did a great job of training this summer," Rooney said. "We're looking forward to her progress this year. We need her to grow to be more of a go-to young person. I believe in her and what she's capable of." Rooney said there is a committed nucleus to this year's team, including swimmers such as sophomore Kristen Kowaleski and senior Hannah Zimmer. "We've got a lot of girls who no one's heard of yet, but they will," Rooney said. "They had the potential to do great things." Overall, Rooney said this was a year in which the North Stars could establish a pattern for the next few years. "It takes a lot of commitment," Rooney said. "It's something we need more of not just for the three months of the high school season, but all year. I'm looking forward to the challenge that we have in front of ourselves -- to take the program and recultivate it."
Coach: Chris Ranallo
What happened last year: The Blackhawks qualified divers Kayla Hickernell and Shannon Sullivan for the state meet.
Losses to graduation: Mary Houlihan, Kayla Hickernell, Nicole Bednarek.
Top returnees: Annika Ness, So.; Miranda Ambre, Sr.; Shannon Sullivan, Sr.; Grace Lee, Sr.; Kerri Olson, Sr.; Emily Nagy, Sr.; Polly Bouris, Sr.
Key newcomers: Rachel Heiss, Fr.; Melissa Hill, Jr.
Outlook: A year ago, West Aurora has a pair of divers qualify for the state meet, and one of those -- Shannon Sullivan -- returns for her senior season. Kayla Hickernell graduated. "We're hoping she can go on and make the first cut and dive on Saturday," West Aurora coach Chris Ranallo said. This year, the Blackhawks have a chance of qualifying a swimmer for the first time since Jackie Iglesias in 2008. Miranda Ambre already holds the school's 500-yard freestyle record and Annika Ness came close to qualifying for state as a freshman. "We'd like to qualify a swimmer and start to build the program," Ranallo said. "If we can get (Ness) there, that would be great for the program." The Blackhawks had a massive freshman turnout this year, and Ranallo said this could fuel the program for the next few years. "It's not swimming," Ranallo said. "We all went to the middle schools to talk to the incoming freshmen last year and the turnout has been excellent in all sports this fall," Ranallo said.