The dividing line between sheer joy and utter despair was in plain view Saturday afternoon on the pool deck at Barrington, where girls swimmers and divers were trying to punch their tickets to next weekend's state championships.
Some, such as Buffalo Grove junior Sarah Morosan, got a strong dose of both emotional extremes.
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In the 50-yard freestyle, Morosan took a quantum leap forward, finishing in 24.38 as six competitors bettered the state qualifying time in that race.
Yelps of joy, and many hugs, followed.
A little later, Morosan had the cruelest finish of all, in the 100 free. She touched in a lifetime-best 53.62 -- but exactly one one-hundredth of a second slower than the time required to make state.
Deep anguish, and more than a few tears, followed.
"One one-hundredth?" said her coach, Tom Mroz. "Heck, I was about to cry, too.
"But she had great swims, and I tried to explain that every swimmer who reaches the upper levels of the sport goes through this. You're going to have a disappointment with a missed cut -- almost everyone does, at some point. She still had a great meet."
Swimmers such as Fremd junior Grace Kneller can certainly relate to what Morosan was going through. Just last season, Kneller missed the state cut by the same tiny margin -- one one-hundredth -- and on Saturday, she was situated adjacent to Morosan in the 100 free heat.
This time, there was no disappointment for Kneller -- she comfortably qualified in the 53.11 and helped Fremd to a strong overall showing.
"Everybody was just really excited today," Kneller said. "It feels great to get so many swimmers through to state."
Stevenson led the way among the meet's big three, as the Patriots, Fremd and Barrington were a level above the rest of the teams in action. Coach Karl Milkereit's team led the way with 274 points, and Fremd (249) edged Barrington (241) for second place.
Importantly for Stevenson, enough went well for them to keep alive their hopes a trophy in next week's state meet. It wasn't a perfect afternoon, as a disqualification in the 100 back hurt, but the Patriots had plenty of positives.
"Overall, a really good day for us," Milkereit said. "Most of the things we really needed went our way today, and we also had some nice surprises."
The best pleasant development for Stevenson came in the 500 free, where Shayna Salzman took a 6-plus second time drop to sneaking in under the cut in 5:09.79. That prompted a moment of elation in lanes 2 and 3 as an incredulous Salzman celebrated with teammate Rebecca Hannon, who finished third in 5:03.24.
Both Stevenson freestyle relays were winners. Senior Cheryl Xiang won the 200 free and broke the pool record by winning the 100 free in 51.66. Senior Julia Wawer was second in the 100 free and third in the 200, advancing easily in both.
Other Patriots state qualifiers were Courtney Kamin in the 50 free, Hannon in the 100 fly, Riley Kirby in the 100 back and Leah Bloodgood in the 100 breast.
Fremd tied for second with Barrington in the 200 free relay and was third behind Stevenson and Barrington in the 400 free relay. The Vikings also won the 200 medley with Grace Grzybek, Loretta Stelnicki, Saki Takumiya and Kneller. All of those performances broke school records for the Vikings.
"I liked what I saw," said Fremd coach Andrew Kittrell. "We'll be taking a big group to state, and I feel like our relays really have a chance there."
Plenty of Fremd individuals will get to race, too, as Erica King (200, 500 free), Takumiya (100 fly, 100 back), Stelnicki (50 free, 24.34), Grzybek (100 back) and Kneller (100 free) will test the state waters.
Barrington had the luxury of holding back a bit with several of its elite swimmers in hopes of delivering even faster efforts at New Trier. Without the benefit of a "fast" suit, senior Mekenna Scheitlin and sophomore Kirsten Jacobsen excelled.
Jacobsen won the 500 free in 4:58.57 and was second in the 200 free in 1:51.51; Scheitlin won the 50 free in 24.27 and was third in the 100 free in 53.08. They'll each have big point-scoring opportunities at state along with both freestyle relays. The Fillies' Emma Barnett advanced in both the 500 free and 100 backstroke, and Andrea Vega won the 200 IM.
"We feel like maybe we'll have a little more in the tank next week," said Barrington coach Jim Bart. "I'm extremely proud of what our girls were able to do today."
Cary-Grove coach Scott Lattyak made the decision to load up the Trojans' relays, thereby sacrificing some individual swims for the sake of the team.
That made the lack of relay advancement a bit disheartening, but there was nothing upsetting about junior Melissa Rose's performance. She won the 100 breast in 1:05.44, a lifetime best by almost one-half second.
"I've got a few more things to work on before state," she said, "but I feel pretty good about where I'm at."
Though Rose qualified for the state meet the last two seasons, she's not yet finished in the top 12.
But her time at Barrington has her hoping for a spot in the championship heat at New Trier.
"Perfect world, yes, top six would be great," she said. "That's the goal."
"She's really taken it to a new level," said Lattyak. "Some of the stuff she's doing in workouts ... she's just been more intense with everything, and it shows."
Wheeling junior Theresa Godlewski continued to rewrite her team's record book, winning the 100 backstroke in 57.85 and taking second in the 50 free in 24.30. It will be her second trip to the state finals.
Palatine sophomore Kristin Anderson had a breakthrough meet, getting big time drops to finish third in the 100 free (52.65) and sixth in the 50 free (24.61) to advance to state along with teammate Amy Zahn, who was second in the 100 fly (58.45).
Prospect junior Dana Liva earned a third straight state trip, winning with a terrific score of 448.50. Fremd's Sarah McTague (366.90), Sydney Plichta (362.35) and Barrington's Tiffany Soto (353.00) stand a good chance to advance with at-large berths.