Jacobs junior Nicky Sanchez has taken the phrase "hitting the wall" to heart.
Sanchez, a member of the Jacobs-Hampshire co-op girls swim team, has made working on her wall strategy one of her main objectives this season.
Sanchez is hoping that intensified focus will pay off at Saturday's St. Charles East sectional where berths in next weekend's state finals at New Trier High School will be on the line.
As of early in the week, Sanchez said she was tentatively slated to swim in the 50 and 100-meter freestyle races, as well as on the 200 medley and 400 relay teams at the sectional.
Sanchez won the Fox Valley Conference title in the 100 in 55.23 and was second in the 50 at 25.43. The state cut in the 100 is 53.61, while the 50 standard is 24.68.
"The biggest help for me this year has been my walls," she said. "I've been focusing on getting my legs stronger. With the 50 being so short, the wall is one of the biggest contributing factors. You want to get enough power off the wall. I've been working on building up the muscles in my legs so I can get a powerful kick and push off the wall."
Sanchez noted she's increased her workout routine this season by spending additional time outside of school at a local Lifetime Fitness facility.
"I'm doing extra things on top of what I'm doing in the pool during practice," she said. "I'm working out more, which has been big for me."
Sanchez also has been pleased with her consistency this season in the 100.
"Before I had been going 56 (seconds in the 100) and to go 55 over and over this year is pretty exciting," she said.
Sanchez is part of the Jacobs medley relay team that won the FVC title with a conference-record 1:53.48 time (state cut is 1:50.16). Sanchez swam the freestyle portion of the race at conference. Her teammates in that race included Jacqueline O'Connor, Erin Jameson and Sydney Erickson.
O'Connor placed second in the fly at conference, while Jameson was second in the breaststroke.
"I think the medley has a shot this year," said Sanchez. "We're working hard at it in practice."
The 10-team St. Charles East field also features the Bartlett-Streamwood co-op, the Crystal Lake co-op, Huntley, South Elgin and the Elgin-Larkin co-op.
Bartlett students Kayla Filipek (freshman) and Sarah Hanning (sophomore) lead the way for Bartlett-Streamwood. Filipek was third at the Upstate Eight Conference meet in the 50 (24.92; state cut is 24.68) and second in the 100 (54.62; state cut is 53.61), while Hanning was second in the fly (1:00.08).
"It's been a good season thus far," said Bartlett-Streamwood coach Jeremy Meserole. "I think we surprised a lot of people at the beginning of the season, due mainly to the fact we have a great group of young talent. We haven't had a solid group like this in over a decade. Now it's time to put the finishing touches on it."
Bartlett-Streamwood will swim 6 freshmen and 2 sophomores at sectionals.
The Crystal Lake co-op team took fifth at the FVC meet and recorded 17 best swims there.
"The girls have put in the work this season," said Crystal Lake coach Stephanie Wozny. "They were definitely rewarded at the conference meet. Building on that momentum will be key to swimming well at sectionals."
Leading the way for Crystal Lake are Prairie Ridge students Danielle Dalbke (Sr., 50, backstroke), Claire Mollitor (Sr., IM, breaststroke), Elizabeth Pieroni (Jr., 100), Nora Mollitor (Fresh., 50, 200) and Tessa Shorten (Fresh., 100).
Elgin-Larkin is led by sophomores Heather Aubry (200, 100) and Echo Boehm (50).
"Those girls who have put in the time, hard work and effort have seen their times dropping and will continue to see them drop at sectionals," said Elgin-Larkin coach Nancy Kalish. "I'm looking forward to times dropping and fast swims on Saturday/"
Huntley placed third in the FVC. Hailey Hill was second in both the 500 and backstroke. Veronica Bergos placed third in the IM and fly, while Allison Cazel was fourth in the 200.
FVC champion Cary-Grove and Dundee-Crown head to the Barrington sectional, which also features the likes of St. Viator, Barrington, Buffalo Grove, Hoffman Estates, Stevenson, Prospect, Fremd, Palatine, Rolling Meadows and Wheeling.
Cary-Grove coach Scott Lattyak said the focus at Barrington will be more on getting as many swimmers to New Trier next weekend as possible.
"We're not going out and trying to place well as a team," he said. "We'd like to qualify the three relays and a couple of individuals."
On the individual front, junior Melissa Rose won the FVC breaststroke in 1:05.91, a time well under the state cut of 1:07.97. She won the title by nearly four seconds. Ross also was second in the 100. Lattyak said the goal is to taper Rose for the state meet in hopes of achieving a personal best and getting a chance to swim on the final day.
Rose finished 23rd in the state last year as a sophomore in the breaststroke with a time of 1:07.08, a time above her FVC title time this year.
Hannah Weber won the conference title in the 50 with a 25.29 effort (state cut is 24.68), while Ashlynn Baker won the FVC 200 title and Becca Elrod won the 500 crown. Karsen Seeger also will compete individually for the Trojans.
"Our strong suits are in the three relays," said Lattyak. "I believe we have a decent shot at all three if we taper well and perform like we are capable of."
Baker, Rose, Elrod and Weber comprise the medley relay team, while Weber, Baker, Elrod and Seeger are on the 200 relay. Weber, Elrod, Baker and Rose swim the 400. Cary-Grove went 1:53.68 in the medley (1:50.16 is the state cut) at conference, but will not have to contend with Jacobs at the sectional. The Trojans swam 1:44.26 and won the 200 relay (1:39.26 is the state cut) and won the 400 in 3:45.05 (3:37.38 is the state cut).
"Those five core athletes have been great for us," said Lattyak. "We're very focused on those relays right now. We're trying to bring a solid number of girls to the state meet."
Kellie Mucha was Dundee-Crown's top finisher at the FVC meet. She was fourth in the IM.
At the sectional, all first-place finishers advance to the state meet along with those who equal or surpass the minimum state-qualifying time and the Top 32 non-first-place divers from all sectionals in the state.