Mundelein won the vast majority of the battles in Thursday's North Suburban Conference girls swimming meet at Libertyville.
But the only race the Wildcats won is becoming their main event. They showcased it again while piling up second- and third-place finishes en route to an intense 94-91 victory.
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Freshman Meredith Robbins, sophomores Macey Neubauer and Staci Herchenbach and senior Sophia Lex took first in the 200-yard medley relay in 1:50.16 - just .22 seconds above state qualifying. And they already hit 1:49 in a dual a couple of weeks ago and are looking to get in the 1:48 range when they swim against Stevenson next week.
"It's kind of weird because we've never had a relay that has the potential to make the finals at state," said Lex, who was part of the 200 medley crew that took 29th in 1:50.36 in last year's state preliminaries.
"Our taper time is what we're going right now, and I thought we were pretty good last season," Wildcats coach Erik Rogers said of their 1:49.85 sectional time. "We've made the 200 medley our identity this year."
It's one Rogers didn't necessarily see with the loss of standout Morgan Dickson to Tennessee. But adding Robbins' backstroke talents has the Wildcats in proximity to defending state champion Fenwick, which has gone 1:47, New Trier and Glenbrook South.
"It's all new for us but obviously it's very exciting," said Lex, whose goal is to get the relay into the top-six championship finals. "I think we're going fast but I know we can go faster.
"Losing Morgan, I didn't know how we were supposed to deal with it. She's the one who held the relay together. We needed Meredith because we needed a backstroker, and each of us worked really hard in the offseason to all get better at our strokes."
Libertyville's only other victory was in diving where Morgan Dunleavy (221.9) edged Mundelein's Kelsey Toland (219.35) in a battle of returning state qualifiers.
But Macey Neubauer's two second-place finishes included a 108.76 that was less than a second off the 100 breaststroke state cut. The Wildcats also got seconds from Robbins in the 50 free and 100 back, Siobhan Prince in the 200 and 500 free, Herchenbach in the 100 fly and Lex in the 100 free.
Emma Richert, Jordan Rule, Sara Prchlik, Grace Hurley and Anne Barnett contributed to 200 medley and 200 free runner-up relays to help the Wildcats overcome disqualifications to two of their three 400 relay teams.
"We worked really hard preparing for this," said Mundelein junior Rachel Robb. "Libertyville is always tough competition and they have great racers."
Robb won the 200 free (2:01.02) and 500 free (5:26.04) and then came right back to swim the 200 free relay win (1:41.04) with Jenn Kordik, Allie Boothe and Karrie Kokozar.
"I was exhausted but excited," Robb said. "I was ready to be there for the team and make sure I did as well as I could."
Erin Falconer bettered the state cut in the 100 back (58.99) and won the 100 fly (59.24). Kordik also was faster than the state qualifying in the 100 breaststroke (1:07.5) and won the 200 IM (2:11.09), and Kozokar overcame a slow start to win the 50 (25.07) and 100 free (54.54).
Mundelein coach Rahul Sethna also juggled his relays to try and get as many points as possible. Kozokar, Boothe, Kordik and Sasha Levin won the 400 free (3:43.59).
"I'm so proud of our girls," Sethna said. "(Wednesday) when we talked about the meet I said if we do everything perfect we would win 93-92.
"Libertyville is just a deeper team but our girls raced and they didn't quit. Both teams rose up to the occasion and it was a great high school meet, which you want in mid-October."