An impressive start to the season for Palatine's girls swimming and diving team gained a little more luster in Wednesday's Mid-Suburban West meet against visiting Hoffman Estates.
The Pirates won 98-42 to remain unbeaten in duals. Palatine also has enough top-line swimmers that it's fared well in invitational formats, with a fourth-place finish in last weekend's Hinsdale South relay meet as the most recent evidence.
"This is the first time since I've been here where everybody really worked hard over the summer before our high school season started," said Palatine coach Brittany Berleman. "Just across the board, we were better."
As examples, Berleman cited sophomore Mathilde Mogensen, who came in 12 seconds faster than last year in her 200 IM, and sophomore Kristin Anderson, who's improved in the sprint freestyles -- especially the 100, where she's regularly finishing in 55 seconds, some three seconds faster than last season.
"Those kind of drops," said Berleman, "make a big difference."
So does senior leadership, and Palatine's got plenty of that, too.
Against Hoffman Estates, tri-captains Laura Mayer, Amy Zahn and diver Morgan Radtke each won events.
For Mayer and Zahn, the primary personal goal is to make another appearance at the state meet. Mayer is a two-time qualifier who narrowly missed out last season; Zahn made it as a sophomore but also was a near miss to the state meet last fall.
"It definitely helps with the motivation, being a senior," said Mayer, who won the 50-meter free, the 100 breaststroke and had legs on both winning freestyle relays. "I feel like I came into this season a lot better prepared."
Part of the challenge with a team like Palatine's is finding the best possible combination of swimmers for a particular opponent or meet. With strong varsity representation from every class, that sorting-it-all-out effort figures to take some time.
"My team goal is just have everything go smoothly," said Zahn. "We want to be closer, as a group, than last year. I think that's starting to happen. We're having fun."
Against the Hawks, Lily Zahn, Amy's sophomore sister, won the 100 fly; sophomore Tess O'Brien won the 200 free and Anderson won the 100 free. Amy Zahn had the top efforts in the 200 IM and 100 breaststroke.
"Palatine, that's a really good program -- a good example of a smaller team that can still do big things," said Hoffman Estates coach Chris Fetterman.
The Hawks are challenged by numbers at the varsity level, but Hoffman Estates has still taken a big step forward from last year.
Against Palatine, things sure started out well as the Hawks' Sarah Miles, Casey Rawlings, Megan Bonney and Jessica Sullivan won the 200-meter medley relay in 2:15.67. And while that was the only Hawks win of the meet at the varsity level, Hoffman Estates was competitive every step of the way, with close second-place individual efforts from Rawlings in the 100 breaststroke and Miles in the 100 fly.
Sullivan is one the few seniors on the team, so Fetterman is using each meet as a learning experience for his young group.
"Time-wise, we're OK right now," said Fetterman. "I think we do need to be tougher. For a lot of our swimmers, this is their first time going through high school meets, and that's an adjustment no matter what your background is."
Palatine won 114 at the JV level, and Hoffman Estates won 101-75 at frosh-soph.
Barrington d. Conant: The host Fillies put together another strong effort in topping the visiting Cougars 110-71.
Barrington won all the relays and had multiple individual winners in Kristen Jacobsen (200 free, 100 fly) and Mekenna Scheitlin (200 IM, 100 breaststroke).
Conant's Sam Wooley won the 50 free in 26.44, while Barrington had first-place efforts from Tiffany Soto (diving, 190.90), Emma Barnett (500 free, 5:11.72), Andrea Vega (100 free, 54.55) and Kael Ragnini (100 back, 1:06.26).