It's not quite time to put together the best performances of the girls swimming season, but that time is fast approaching. So the overall high level of Neuqua Valley's swims at Saturday's Upstate Eight Conference meet was something pleasing for Wildcats coach Jason Niforatos.
"I saw a lot of things to come," Niforatos said. "We've been holding our time and getting more work done in different ways. I know some of the girls were hoping to go a little bit faster today. But overall, I like where we're at."
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St. Charles East won the meet 288-234 over host St. Charles North. Neuqua Valley scored 219 points and finished third.
Neuqua Valley swam without Grace Soltys, who is still recovering from a midseason injury.
"She's such a presence for us," Niforatos said. "When she's in the meet, the girls get a lot better. I know the outcome of this meet, with the relays, would have been a little different if we'd had (Soltys) in there."
The Wildcats earned one conference championship when Natalie McGovern won the 100-yard butterfly. McGovern also finished second in the 100 backstroke.
"Conference is definitely one of our bigger meets on the way to state," McGovern said. "Our conditioning part of the season is done and we're starting to rest down and taper. The next time we'll be swimming, we'll have more energy and I think we'll be fun to watch."
Neuqua Valley's 100-breaststroke swimmers -- Amanda Brockmeier and Mackenzie Hornstra -- finished second and third, respectively, while Kaitlyn Gorski was fourth in the 200 freestyle and fourth in the 500 freestyle.
"We like to have a big deck presence when we come to these meets," McGovern said. "We like to get after it and see what we can do."
Waubonsie Valley's Madeline Hunt won the 50 freestyle. After edging to a lead after 25 yards, she stayed ahead through the second half of the race and defeated Metea Valley's Amanda Burson for the title.
"I was really excited seeing my teammates down at the other end of the pool cheering for me," Hunt said. "It got me in the right mindset for the race and that was exciting."
Hunt also finished third in the 100 backstroke, but her 50 freestyle was a focused performance.
"From the moment you hit the water, you've got to make your race as perfect as possible," she said. "You don't really have room for error."
As a team, Waubonsie Valley finished fourth. The Warriors had strong relay performances. The 200 medley relay -- Hunt, Paige Simpson, Alexa Steffl and Avery Mathew -- finished second. The 200 freestyle relay placed third.
"I think they did a great job," Waubonsie Valley coach Katie Peterson said. "They stepped up and we had a couple of best times, which is a good job. We kind of know what we need to do for sectionals."
Metea Valley finished sixth in the nine-team meet and the Mustangs' Madeline Sandberg won the 100 butterfly. Sandberg also finished second in the 50 freestyle.
"My coach (Mark Jager) said the season was finally starting with this meet," Sandberg said. "The other meets were practice for this meet and the next meets coming up. I was excited and nervous for this."
Overall, the Mustangs are moving from a period of heavy training and most swimmers will begin resting for the state sectional meet.
"I think everyone wants to have a good showing because it's the conference meet," Metea Valley coach Mark Jager said. "There's a few rivalries going on between all the different schools. It's nice to get everybody in the same building and show off what we have."
In its first Upstate Eight meet since moving from the DuPage Valley Conference, West Chicago finished seventh.
"It's a different experience," West Chicago coachNick Parry said. "There's more teams. It's a more intense environment because it's more varsity focused being on Saturday and varsity-only today. It's just a change. It's not bad or good, but it's a change."