A scoring mistake kept the thrill of a Lake County girls swimming meet championship from lasting long for Stevenson last year.
But the Patriots made sure the margin for error wasn't an issue on Saturday afternoon at Lake Forest High School. They won their first Lake County title since 2007 by a 49-point margin over the hosts in the powerful 10-team meet.
"It was a huge goal," said Stevenson senior Riley Kirby, who won the 100-yard backstroke and was on all three first-place relays.
"It definitely feels great," said senior Julia Wawer after winning the 50 free and helping the Patriots' victorious free relays. "But the best part is all the girls did really well today. That's more important than just winning."
That's why the senior-dominated Patriots are looking to leave a lasting impression by joining the 2007 team that took third in the state and won the program's only state trophy. This was a good barometer for them as Barrington took third with sophomore Kirsten Jacobsen cruising to an impressive 500 free win and Mundelein was fourth behind double-winner Erin Falconer and 100 breaststroke champ Jenn Kordik.
"It was a great day," said Stevenson coach Karl Milkereit. "This is the beginning of the season you want to zero in on and pick up some good times, and we did well. Barrington, Mundelein, Lake Forest and ourselves should all be in the top eight at the state meet."
Kirby won the 100 back (58.61) over Lake Forest's Haley Nelson (58.99) and Warren's Courtney Barker (59.94). Kirby, Wawer, Cheryl Xiang and Courtney Kamin also won the 200 free (1:37.63) and 400 free (3:31.07) relays ahead of Mundelein's crew of Falconer, Kordik, Rachel Robb and Karrie Kozokar.
"I feel as a team we've really bonded," Kirby said. "We try to encourage each other and as a whole team our effort and attitude have really increased."
Kirby, Kamin, Leah Bloodgood and Rebecca Hannon won the 200 medley relay in 1:50.62. Bloodgood (1:07.57) took second in the 100 breast to Kordik (1:07.13), Xiang was second in the 100 free and third in the 200 free, Hannon had a season-best 5:11.58 to take third in the 500 and Ashlin Ruiz, Yuka Kuwahara, Shayna Salzman and Casey Kirby all had top-six medal finishes.
"It's the same group of girls who have been here since freshman year and we want to go out with a bang," said Wawer, who was third in the 100 free. "We have the motivation to do as well as we can."
Barrington took third in a meet coach Jim Bart called "a little bit of a rollercoaster with some good efforts." The top one was Jacobsen's season-best 4:56.55 in the 500 to finish 15 seconds ahead of teammate Emma Barnett.
"We did surprisingly well and I thought the whole team stepped it up today," Jacobsen said. "It's really good to swim against teams not in our conference. I thought I did really well (in the 500)."
Jacobsen was second in the 200 (1:51.18) and Mekenna Scheitlin was second in the 50 free (24.37). Bart also liked what he saw from Olivia Hoffman in the fly and breaststroke and Kael Ragnini in the 200 free and 100 back.
Falconer had a big day to help Mundelein finish fourth. Her 200 free (1:50.88) was only .63 off her fourth-place state time of last year and she won the 100 free in 52.05.
"I kind of expected to swim well at this meet because it's pretty much the best competition in the state," Falconer said. "I didn't expect to swim as fast as I did so I'm really happy.
"I knew coming into this meet I would have a lot of people in the race and I got really excited. I knew I had to go out as hard as I could to keep up with the girls next to me."
Senior Morgan Dunleavy won the diving (370.01 points) for fifth-place Libertyville. Macey Neubauer took third in the 100 breast (1:09.21), Meredith Robbins was just a second off the state cut in the 100 back and coach Erik Rogers was impressed by his medley relay of Robbins, Neubauer, Staci Herchenbach and Sophia Lex despite a disqualification because of a twitch on one of the starts.
"The medley relay was amazing," Rogers said of his crew which was timed in 1:25.38 through three legs. "It would have been the second-fastest time in the state so we're pretty excited about that. We'll get the start figured out."
Sixth-place Warren saw Paige Wells finish second in the 100 fly (58.66) to Lake Forest double-winner Reilly Lanigan. Wells also took third in the 50 free.
Vernon Hills was seventh with an encouraging performance by Lisa Cheng, who was sixth in the 50 free and tied for seventh in the 100 fly. Cheng had been out of the water this week because of an irregular heartbeat but was cleared by her doctor to swim in the meet, according to coach Kedric Greenawalt.
"She swam really well today," Greenawalt said. "She put together four really solid races."