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updated: 11/1/2013 4:41 PM

Team-first Kozokar embraces the 100 free for Mundelein

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  • Mundelein's Karrie Kozokar, right, will swim the 100-yard freestyle in the state series.She's pictured here at state last year with, from left, Amy Klink, Jennifer Kordik and Erin Falconer after they placed eighth in the 400 freestyle relay.

       Mundelein's Karrie Kozokar, right, will swim the 100-yard freestyle in the state series.She's pictured here at state last year with, from left, Amy Klink, Jennifer Kordik and Erin Falconer after they placed eighth in the 400 freestyle relay.
    George Leclaire | Staff Photographer

  • Mundelein swimmer Karrie Kozokar looks up at her time after finishing first in the 50-yard freestyle in a dual meet at Libertyville.

       Mundelein swimmer Karrie Kozokar looks up at her time after finishing first in the 50-yard freestyle in a dual meet at Libertyville.
    Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

 

There was nothing personal about the big change Karrie Kozokar made for her senior swimming season at Mundelein.

In fact, the reason behind trading a spot on a relay team to swim in an individual event is a move she made for Mundelein. That's why Kozokar is focusing on the 100-yard freestyle for one of her four events instead of the 200 medley relay.

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"Last year was the first year I felt as a team we had a chance to do really well," Kozokar said of the Mustangs' 13th-place state finish. "This year we can do even better. We all have individual goals for state but we've set really high team goals."

The last two years, Kozokar earned four top-12 state relay medals and qualified for state in her main event, the 50 free. But the standout water polo player's 100 time of 53.65 seconds a year ago ranks third on Mundelein's all-time list behind juniors Erin Falconer and Jennifer Kordik.

So, that also factored into Mundelein coach Rahul Sethna's thoughts of bigger and better team accomplishments than ever.

"That puts her as a potential scorer at state," Sethna said. "We want to try to be in the top 10 at state so we have to try to find swims where we can get points.

"I think she's better (in the 100) than she thinks she is, and that's always something I try to stress to her. She's one of the top sprinters, definitely in the area and the state, but she has to believe that, too. Swimming is so mental and that's the key, especially for a sprinter."

The sprints are where Kozokar said she's always been at her best. The 50 is her most comfortable event since she was 16th in the state preliminaries in 24.46 as a sophomore and 21st last year in 24.25, which ranks second in program history to Falconer.

Kozokar said the return of Sethna, who led the girls program from 1997-2006, has helped with her work on the starts and turns that are crucial to sprinting success.

"I've improved a lot from where I was freshman year," said Kozokar, who swam 54.26 to finish sixth in the power-packed Lake County Invitational on Sept. 28. "My 100 has gotten a lot better and I feel that will be the biggest event change for me going to state and sectionals. I can drop more time in there."

Her willingness to make a change has been a big boost in ensuring a successful transition in Sethna's return to lead the program.

"She's been great at accepting coaching," he said. "It's hard your senior year to have a new coach, but she's been very open to being coached and very open to try to improve and get better."

That falls in line with being one of the team captains with Falconer and Allie Boothe. But Kozokar also mentioned junior and returning relay medalist Rachel Robb as one of the many leaders and example-setters for the Mustangs.

"We push each other in practice because everyone swims fast and trains at a good level," Kozokar said. "We swim in a fast (North Suburban) conference, so that constantly prepares you for the state meet."

After that, Kozokar will prepare for another big season in her main sport of water polo. She scored 121 goals last year to earn first-team all-state honors and lead Mundelein to a fourth-place state tournament finish.

Kozokar, who has a 4.1 grade-point average on a 5.0 scale and scored 27 on the ACT, said Indiana, Michigan and Loyola Marymount are her top choices to play water polo and likely study business.

"She's one of the top two or three players in the state," Sethna said, "and this isn't a knock against her, but if she applied herself as much in swimming as water polo, she would easily be one of the top sprinters in the state."

Sethna and Kozokar would be thrilled if she added a couple of top-12 finishes that helped Mundelein to its best finish at state in about three weeks at New Trier.

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