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updated: 11/21/2013 9:35 PM

Stevenson eyes top-five prize at state meet

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  • Libertyville's Staci Herchenbach powers ahead in the 100-yard butterfly in the Vernon Hills sectional last weekend.

      Libertyville's Staci Herchenbach powers ahead in the 100-yard butterfly in the Vernon Hills sectional last weekend.
    Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

By Marty Maciaszek
Daily Herald Correspondent

Everything this season has been geared toward this weekend for the Stevenson girls swimming team.

The Patriots and their senior-dominated crew had their sights on one of the top three trophy prizes. Nothing in that plan has changed as they head into today's preliminaries, which begin at 3:30 p.m. at New Trier in Winnetka.

And they're hoping to match the third-place finish of the 2007 team in Saturday's finals, which start at 1 p.m. for the top 12 competitors to advance from the prelims.

"Our goal going into the season was to get top five, and if things really went our way, maybe be there to get a third-place trophy," said Stevenson coach Karl Milkereit. "It looks like with points (based on seeds) we're going in sixth, so we've got a good shot.

"We definitely didn't rest for sectionals. We've done everything for state to try and have (time) drops this weekend."

New Trier is looking to win a fourth consecutive title and add to its state record of 13. Fenwick, Downers Grove North, Lake Forest and Loyola also appear to be in the top-three mix with the Patriots.

"Obviously Downers swam out of their minds at the sectional," Milkereit said. "With the times they put up, we'll see if they can hang on to them."

Experience combined with ability is a strong suit for the Patriots. Seniors Julia Wawer, Cheryl Xiang, Riley Kirby and Rebecca Hannon have all medaled at the state meet.

Xiang and Wawer have respective seeds of second and seventh in the 200-yard freestyle and fifth and eighth in the 100 free. They are also on the third-seeded 400 free relay with Kirby and senior Courtney Kamin and the 10th-seeded 200 free relay with Kirby and senior Isabella Tomassetti.

Hannon is seeded 11th in the 500 free and is on the 16th-seeded 200 medley relay with Kirby, Kamin and senior Leah Bloodgood.

"The girls who have been there all four years have been through the fire and dealt with the elements you have in a meet like this," Milkereit said. "In club meets and high school meets, they've been to the highest levels you can achieve and they've gone up against the best for four years, so they won't be nervous."

Mundelein seeks top 10: Mundelein's main goal has been a top-10 team finish this weekend. Now the foursome of returning state medalists Erin Falconer, Karrie Kozokar, Jenn Kordik and Rachel Robb are poised to make it happen.

"I think what you saw was just a snippet of what's to come at state," Kordik said after last Saturday's Vernon Hills sectional. "We're all so excited for this weekend."

Especially with Falconer looking to add to her seven state medals and potentially bring Mundelein its first individual girls swimming title. The junior is the top seed in the 100 free by 1.03 seconds over defending champion Gabby Sims of Downers North and she is seeded third in the 200 free behind St. Charles East's Stephanie Garvin and Stevenson's Cheryl Xiang.

"Her 100 free was smoking fast," Mundelein coach Rahul Sethna said of Falconer's 50.16 in the sectional. "She's just a game-changer. She's so good underwater."

Kordik rebounded from illness just days before the sectional and is seeded 11th in the 100 breaststroke. Kordik, Kozokar, Falconer and Robb are seeded fifth in the 400 free and sixth in the 200 free and Kozokar is seeded 17th in the 100 free.

Mundelein could also get some points from junior diver Kelsey Toland, who scored 404.10 in the sectional.

Libertyville finds right medley mix: The combination of Meredith Robbins, Macey Neubauer, Staci Herchenbach and Sophia Lex clicked early in the 200 medley relay for Libertyville.

It has resulted in North Suburban Conference and sectional titles and a 10th seed for the state meet.

"We all work really hard and we work well together," Lex said. "We all like each other, which is very important in relays. We're all highly motivated and ready to go."

Said Herchenbach: "At the beginning of the season we didn't realize we had a such a strong relay. All of a sudden it just worked and we put an awesome relay together. We work really well as a team."

Senior Morgan Dunleavy will also try to give Libertyville its best diving finish as the fourth seed with a 461.10 sectional score. Elizabeth Reese finished seventh in 1999.

Warren looks to end drought: Eighteen years have passed since current Lake Forest coach Carolyn Grevers finished her prep career at Warren as a four-time state medalist.

Those are also the only state medals by a swimmer from the school's girls program. That could change with freshman Courtney Barker seeded 11th in the 100 backstroke, the 200 free relay of Barker, Paige Wells, Jessie Grasty and Katie Travelstead seeded 11th, the 200 medley relay of Barker, Wells, Grasty and Megan Delfeld seeded 12th and Wells seeded 14th in the 50 free.

"That's definitely a goal for our team," said Wells, who is a returning state qualifier. "The relays and individually, we want to medal at state."

The 200 medley relay dropped to 1:46.99 and the 200 free relay to 1:37.36 at the sectional. Barker and Wells were not fully tapered last week.

"With the times we were producing (last Saturday), I think we can do that," said first-year Warren coach Chris Bertana of getting a medal-winning relay at state.

And the Blue Devils hope to sustain the big boost they got last weekend when they finished second as a team to Lake Forest.

"This was a meet we really, really needed," Bertana said. "We needed this to come together and to finish out the season with some energy and confidence."

Rinaldi looks to make a splash: Lakes doesn't have its own pool or a full team that competes during the regular season. But junior Madison Rinaldi continued to bring attention to the school by qualifying for state for the second straight year.

Rinaldi is a repeat qualifier in the 100 backstroke and also made it this time in the 200 IM.

"I feel so much better because I know what the atmosphere is like," Rinaldi said of the state meet. "Last year was a whole new experience."

Rinaldi is seeded 25th in the 100 back and 28th in the 200 IM.

"I think it looks very promising," Rinaldi said. "I'm only half-tapered, My main focus is (this) weekend and I'm looking forward to what it's going to bring."

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