Yes, Barrington saw its long string of conference championships snapped by Fremd last season. But by any measure, it was still a successful season for the Fillies, especially in terms of preparing for this year -- which truly could be special. Barrington has a quality of depth that will hard for others in the conference to match; the kind of depth that scores points on the last day of the season. Sophomore Kirsten Jacobsen is back after having won the 500 freestyle and taken third in the 200 free at the state meet. She actually went some three seconds faster than her state-winning time in the 500 after the high school season and is within a second of the state record of 4:46.66. Senior Mekenna Scheitlin earned a spot in the 50 free state finals and is clearly right on track for a big finish after turning in a 51.8 in the 100 free in the team's first dual meet Tuesday. Juniors Andrea Vega and Emma Barnett also gained state meet experience last season, with Barnett just missing a point-scoring effort in the 500. Olivia Hoffman qualified for state in two races last year, Kelsey Holmes is versatile and would help any team in the state, Emma Toth will provide depth in many spots and freshman Alice Han will also have a varsity impact right away. On top of all that, Barrington has senior diver Tiffany Soto, a state meet qualifier last season, ready to go. The Fillies have enough overall lineup strength and sprint freestyle depth to be a major player on the state stage. "It's one step at a time," said coach Jim Bart, "but we feel like we're back to where we want to be. The goal is to get a big group to state and see what we can do."
It's a groundbreaking year for the Bison program -- literally. As the school's pool gets an expansion and makeover, Buffalo Grove is swimming in an outdoors pool, at least until colder weather arrives. Coach Tom Mroz lost a great bunch of seniors last year, including the state's fourth-place finisher in the 100-yard freestyle, Veronika Jedryka, and overall this year will be one of retooling. The top returner is junior Sarah Morosan, who had a leg on the BG state freestyle relay last year. Freshman Alexa Jedryka -- Veronika's sister -- will take a prominent role in the varsity lineup right away. The team's numbers are strong, with enough to run three levels in duals. "We are young and inexperienced," said Mroz, "but they show an awesome work ethic and are improving every day."
Coach Justin Bickus is trying to blend established, successful varsity swimmers with some new, talented athletes, and so far he likes the results. State meet veteran Allison Cicero is back for her junior season and, according to Bickus, "has been destroying pretty much any set we give her." In addition to the distance freestyle standout, Angie Skittone, Paulina Wolska and Sam Wooley return to provide some sprint speed. The freshmen making waves are Lea Cejvan and Alicia Gafke; Bickus says they're doing a nice job of keeping pace with the team's top swimmers. Others expected to make significant varsity contributions include Prarthana Pradhan (free, fly), Elizabeth Kirkwood (distance) and Daria Gielczynski, Sahar Gowani, Megan Kilgore and Jenn Soukup. In diving, the Cougars will rely on Lexi Correa, Katie Kopp and Emily Weingart.
The Grenadiers lost a couple of leading seniors from last year's team who were part of a school record-setting medley relay, Angelica Ford and Jackie Hirschauer. Whether this is a rebuilding or reloading season for Elk Grove remains to be seen. Back in the fold is senior Simona Kurta, a state qualifer in the 100 fly last year and one of the MSL's top competitors in that event. She's also very versatile and will help Elk Grove in whatever she swims. Joining Kurta with some experience are juniors Inah Enolva, Malia Distor and divers Hannah Niemi and Kailey Regnier, who transfered from Lake Park. The sophomore class features Alyssa Rosenorn and Sara Lasovska, and coach Dave Toler is encouraged by the skills in freshmen Erin Falejzck, Emily Franke and Kate Duffy. "We are set up the same as last year, so numbers will hinder us in dual meets," Toler said. "We'll be much better in a championship format."
The defending conference champs lost a couple of fine competitors in elite sprinter Breanna Anderson and versatile senior leader Kayleen Samuels. The good news is ... well, just about everyone else is back, and better than ever. The divers are top-notch, as Sydney Plichta and Sarah McTague bring state-meet experience to the boards, and they'll have talented teammates in seniors Niki Jackson and Alexis Smith. A group of 12 divers will be coached by Courtney Wilhelm, a former All-American from Mundelein who has coached Fremd's boys divers. Jill Marsden and Sam Barry are senior captains who will lend depth on the fly and sprint relays, respectively. Erica King and Julia Portmann excel in distance freestyle and will also be key on relays. Saki Takumiya had a breakthrough season last year; both she and backstroke cohort Grace Grzybek figure to have a great shot at making the state meet, perhaps in multiple events. On top of all this, the Vikings have a pair of elite sprint freestylers in juniors Grace Kneller and Loretta Stelnicki. "Given how much time Bre spent grooming them," said coach Andrew Kittrell, "it won't surprise me if one or both of them break her school records." As for team goals, the Vikings will clearly be among the league's best. Their top goal is to improve upon the program's best-ever finish at the state meet, 14th place. Kittrell suggested Barrington as a favorite to win the Mid-Suburban League, but also says, "I would say even though we might be underdogs, my girls can certainly make things sporty, and we should not be underestimated. It will be a very fun conference and state meet."
When you win enough MSL East titles in a row, eventually you move to shorthand for your slogans. At least that's the tack being taken by Huskies coach Dick Mortensen, whose team is after a seventh straight East crown this fall -- or, as he puts it, 'D47.' (Drive for Seven). Yes, Hersey is without four-year state qualifier and all-around standout Amanda Petro (Ohio State), but a great many of her teammates are back. Hersey may have one of the deepest varsity diving groups in the history of the league as Hannah Bovino, Annie Johnson, Megan Nocita and Kelly Haines are all back and performing well for coach Tom Schwab. The lower levels of diving are also looking great, as seven freshmen with diving and/or gymnastics in their background have joined the program. Lenna Fotos split 23.99 on the freestyle leg of last year's state meet medley relay and has health on her side this fall. Mortensen said Sarah Petro had an outstanding summer season and seems poised to take a step up. Others with varsity experience include Zeynep Abat (breast, IM), Katie Lutz (sprints), Katie Lindholm (distance), Emma Wilcher (fly, IM) and Collen Cusick (fly). Freshmen Jen Lutz and Carolina Niemiec could also make a splash on varsity, and with nearly 30 freshmen total joining the Huskies, the numbers suggest Hersey is certainly driving in the right direction.
Coach Chris Fetterman can only be encouraged as the Hawks embark on a season filled with youthful optimism. A small senior class featuring Jessica Sullivan and Nicole Kasman gets a big boost from the freshmen and sophomores as the Hawks look to take a step up collectively. Overall numbers will still be a challenge as the varsity group includes 11 competitors -- two freshmen, four sophs, three juniors and two seniors. Freshman Sarah Miles brings an impressive age-group swimming resume to the program, and her versatility across a wide range of events will be a huge plus. Fetterman is hoping she can become the team's first state meet qualifier in more than 10 years. "After a successful summer," said Fetterman, "I do not have any reason to believe that she will not be." Other key performers will be junior Megan Bonney and junior diver Nathalie Castro. "We are constantly trying to build something special here," said Fetterman, "and with moving inexperience freshmen and sophomores with a lot of potential up to the varsity, we are looking to 2014 and '15 as years where, as a team, we will really make some noise."
Based on the early returns, it looks like Maine West has much positive news on the horizon. Julia Boesche is already close to the state qualifying time in the 100 fly, Kristen Burger has been solid in the distance freestyles, Holly Wasicak is strong in the breaststroke and sprints and Katie Pack is a solid varsity diver. Others making waves in the early going for the Warriors include Audrey Magnoni (back, sprints), Bailey Guenther (fly), Carly Romano (sprints) and Cassidy Larsen (backstroke).
The Pirates have assembled a team with a neat blend of talent and varying levels of experience. Senior captains Amy Zahn and Laura Mayer are both state meet veterans. Zahn has always been strong in the 100 fly and hopes to excel in the 200 free as well; Mayer's top events are the fly and 200 IM. Lily Zahn (Amy's sister) will be counted on the 100 and 200 free, and the continued development of her sophomore classmates bodes well for Palatine. Kristin Anderson has become a top-notch freestyler, from the 50 to the 200; Tess O'Brien can swim about anything but should help foremost in the distance freestyles and the breaststroke; and both Mathilde Mogenson and Kelsey Hank had big time drops over the summer and will contribute big points at the varsity level. Promising freshman Kaitlyn Kurrie will also have an impact, and with senior diving captains Morgan Radtke and Megan Bourn back in action, Palatine is a team with some lineup flexibility and quality throughout the lineup. "We are set up to have a great year," said coach Brittany Berleman. "Our team is young and fast. We are still pretty small, but all 10 of our varsity girls are coming in with a lot of preseason work already done. We are in much better shape at the beginning, which tells me we will go far at the end."
One of the deep programs in the MSL East has gotten appreciably deeper. Coach Alfonso Lopez had more than his fair share of returning swimmers from last season -- and then added a promising freshman class, along with two skilled move-ins from Indiana. First, some familiar faces. In diving, standout Dana Liva is back for her junior year; the two-time MSL champ placed sixth in the state last season and gives the Knights big points any time she competes. In swimming, three juniors were key contributors last season: Ellie McGough excels in the freestyles (50, 100, 200); versatile Macy Berkley has been strong in the distance freestyles along with the 100 breast and 200 IM; Niki Neumann will help out in backstroke, IM and the distance freestyles. Others figuring to make an impact include sophomore Abby Younger, junior Michelle Vuong, junior Monica Mazurek and senior Lily Alvey. Rachel Rozow, a junior, and her sophomore sister Betsy, were both state qualifiers in Indiana last year. Rachel's top events are the IM, fly and breast, along with all the freestyles. Betsy's top races are the freestyle sprints and the backstroke. Lopez expects both to be big contributors to the varsity lineup, including relays. On balance, Prospect will still be a young team. Sophomore to watch include Kristen Chamberlin, Faye Barry, Molly Mueller and Lauren Broz; promising frosh include Natalia Dmitruk, Samantha Berkley, Janae Dawson and Gracie Dix. "Our goals remain the same as a team," Lopez says. "We're looking to compete for the title in the MSL East, improve our standing in the conference as a team, place well at our invites, try to set school records and qualify as many athletes as we can for the state meet. This should be a fun season. I'm excited to see how the team develops over the course of the year."
Rolling Meadows will face some challenges in varsity numbers, but coach Monika Chiappetta is thrilled about the potential for her group despite a big loss of seniors from last year. The top returners are seniors Maggie Feikes and Rachel Renz, along with junior Erin Pletch. Of those three, Chiappetta says, "All three are ready to have an incredible season." As for potential, the Mustangs are looking for big gains from three sophomores who got their feet wet last year -- Anna Frantom, Jessie Ligenza and Bailey Rowley -- and three freshmen who should be able to contribute right away in Grace Nykol, Teresa Perille and Betsy Zanocco. "Our varsity squad will be small and young," said Chiappetta, "but we're very excited to work hard and get some best times."
The good news for the Saxons is they've got a senior-heavy group this year. The bad news is, last year's senior aren't around anymore, meaning Schaumburg coach Tim Kasper is trying to replace the big contributions of top divers Amanda Poland and Amanda Sigler and swimmers Ema Cigerova, Ashley Johnson and Natasha Ally. The early results are encouraging, though, as Schaumburg looks to state qualifier Sydney Skibinski (100 breast) along with Madeline Langlotz (sprints), Abigail Langlotz (distance), Nicole Grzes (backstroke) and Ellen Nolley (distance) to lead the way. Juniors Danielle J. Grubb (fly), Danielle E. Grubb (breaststroke) and Britney Vasquez and freshmen Becca Birriel and Hannah Pearson will also figure into Schaumburg's attack.
Coach Jeff Davis, a standout swimmer who graduated from Schaumburg High School in '07, is directing the program this fall, and he has plenty of reason to be encouraged. One main goal for the program is to keep everyone focused on end-of-season performances. "We are looking to have a successful year by keep our eye on the prize and focusing on our championship meets," said Davis. "Every other swim meet or invite is just another practice." Helping maintain that emphasis are captains Laura Foss, Lilly Miossi and Megan Schreuder. Sophomore Jackie Rose is providing a leadership-by-example lesson with excellent intensity in workous. Foss, a senior, will lead in the Lions in the fly and backstroke. Senior Nina Byskosh's strength is in the sprints, and Gianna Chu is focusing on the backstroke. "We are off to a great start at St. Viator," Davis said. "The girls are working very hard and it is going to pay off when November rolls around. The leadership from our captains is unbelievable."
The Wildcats enjoyed a season of progress last fall, as Theresa Godlewski broke school records and earned a spot in the state meet. Beyond that, Wheeling had every competitor deliver nice time drops at sectional, and most of the key figures from that group are back. Godlewski is a junior coming off a very successful summer season and is focused on achieving even bigger things this fall. Versatile senior co-captain Emily Zieger will help out in many events. Coach Lisa Poynor says she's looking forward to senior Rachel Ropski and junior Shannon Richards taking a step up in the breaststroke, while Adrienne Rozmus' strength is the distance freestyle and sophomore Adrianna Passannante is the team's top butterflyer. "We are a small team," said Poynor, "that has potential to shine bright."