Barrington senior Mekenna Scheitlin, along with all the competitors in the girls swimming and diving sectional to be hosted by the Fillies on Saturday, will certainly be keeping an eye on the big scoreboard above the pool Saturday.
Heck, maybe even both eyes.
A couple of weeks ago following the Mid-Suburban League girls swimming meet, one eye was about all Scheitlin could muster. A random collision involving another swimmer's arm during the meet's warmup session had her left eye swollen and the upper cheekbone area a bit bruised.
Asked about it after the conference meet, in which Scheitlin won the 100-yard freestyle, she simply said, "No big deal -- got whacked in warmups. I'm fine."
Then she placed her goggles directly over the inflamed area and went about the task at hand.
For those of you not familiar with swimming, this is not a sport for the meek.
Scheitlin was getting ready for a time trial after the conference meet, a final chance at getting a team record in the 100-yard butterfly.
The mood at the sectional meet will be much the same: Last chance.
To extend their seasons past this weekend, swimmers need to either win their race or better the state qualifying standard. In a swimming-rich state like Illinois, that keeps getting harder and harder to accomplish.
So, as much as competitors will be racing one another in the pool, the real struggle will be with the clock.
Fremd and Barrington, the Mid-Suburban League's top two teams, have plenty of candidates ready to take the next step and compete in the state meet preliminaries at New Trier on Nov. 22. They'll be joined by North Suburban Conference champ Stevenson, a state trophy hopeful, meaning there will be no shortage of fast times.
The Patriots have an exceptional senior class featuring Julia Wawer, Rebecca Hannon, Riley Kirby and Leah Bloodgood -- along with great depth throughout the lineup. Expect Stevenson to qualify two swimmers in most events, plus all three relays.
Fremd, the two-time Mid-Suburban League champion, is aiming at sending all three relays and has terrific chances in each. Coach Andrew Kittrell will have sprint standouts Grace Kneller and Loretta Stelnicki on all the relays, meaning those two will have just one individual race apiece (50 free for Stelnicki; 100 free for Kneller). Others with excellent chances are Saki Takumiya (backstroke, fly), Erica King and Julia Portmann (200 and 500 free), Grace Grzybek (200 IM, 100 back) and Christine Osborn (100 fly, 50 free).
"Our fingers will be crossed, but the kids look good," said Kittrell, "and we love to race in Barrington's pool so with a little luck, we should have a great day."
Scheitlin leads a Barrington team that's exceptionally strong in the freestyles. She hopes to make her fourth straight state meet trip after making the state championship heat of the 50-yard free last year; she'll be competing in the 50 and 100 free this year.
Fillies sophomore Kirsten Jacobsen is among the few competitors who'll have no trouble beating the state cut in her events. The defending state champ in the 500 free will also compete in the 200 free and figures to have her fastest races saved for New Trier.
Andrea Vega, Emma Barnett, Olivia Hoffman and Kelsey Holmes are among Barrington's others with great opportunities to earn spots in individual races at state.
Palatine hopes to join those making the state meet trek. Both Pirates freestyle relays have been strong, sophomore Kristin Anderson has taken big steps forward in the sprint freestyles, state meet veterans Amy Zahn and Laura Mayer would like nothing more than to earn another state meet experience and Lily Zahn and Tess O'Brien are among the developing athletes who could make state, either individually or on relays.
"If all goes well," said Palatine coach Brittany Berleman, "we could have many individuals and two relays. Stevenson has had some great times so far, and Barrington and Fremd have also been under the cuts, so I'm hoping my girls step up with them and make it too."
Wheeling junior Theresa Godlewski looks to be right on track for a repeat trip to state. She won the 50 free and 100 back at the Mid-Suburban League meet.
Buffalo Grove's top candidate is Sarah Morosan in the sprints, while Hoffman Estates senior Jessica Sullivan has been strong in the sprints and freshman Sarah Miles has been closing in on the state cut in the 100 fly and 100 back.
Cary-Grove features two-time state-qualifying breastroke Melissa Rose, who went 1:05.91 in winning the conference meet last weekend.
Betsy Rozow looks to have Prospect's top opportunity at advancement, while young teams at St. Viator and Rolling Meadows aim to gain experience against some terrific programs.
Prospect junior Dana Liva is among the top divers in the state, and the field will also feature returning state qualifers Tiffany Soto (Barrington), Sydney Plichta and Sarah McTague (Fremd).
At Downers Grove North: MSL schools Conant, Elk Grove and Schaumburg and Central Suburban League representative Maine West join a field where the host Trojans figure to be the strongest team. Three MSL swimmers are out to earn a second straight trip state.
Elk Grove senior Simona Kurta has been steady all season in her top event, the 100 fly. Schaumburg senior Sidney Skibinski qualified for state last year in the 100 breast; and Conant junior Allison Cicero advanced in the 500 free last year and is positioned to have a chance to repeat.
at Glenbrook South: Hersey is the lone area team here. The Huskies' top performers figure to be seniors Hannah Bovino and Anne Johnson; Bovino made it to state last year. In the swimming events, senior sprinter Lenna Fotos is Hersey's best chance to advance.