As if the IHSA girls swim meet didn't need one more thing to get the fans making huge noise before Friday's prelims at New Trier, Jim Cornelison stepped to the microphone to deliver the sort of rousing rendition of the "Star Spangled Banner" Chicago Blackhawks fans have come to know for years. And that national anthem left a set of fans who had just been ratcheting their own noise level through the "Wave" at an even higher noise level.
Local athletes gave their fans plenty to scream about as well -- none more than St. Charles East, poised for its best team finish in a decade.
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"Everyone around the pool was so excited," St. Charles East sophomore Jordan Morling said. "It rubs off on you and gets you so pumped. When they were doing the Wave, that was so cool."
The team trophy race could be one of the most competitive in years. Team points only count in the finals, but New Trier (153 points), Downers Grove North (141) and Fenwick (134) are in the hunt for the top places.
"We're set in our spots," St. Charles East coach Joe Cabel said. "We're just looking for where we can more up tomorrow. We were a little bright-eyed and looking around a lot at the beginning of the meet. As we got into the meet and settled down, it seemed like we got better."
St. Charles East sits some distance behind that triumvirate, but the Saints also have 75 points, are poised for at least a top 10 finish and have a trio of girls swimming individually as well as all three relays in competition.
"I thought everybody swam awesome today," Cabel said. "It was a fast meet and it set us up well for tomorrow."
The Saints opened the day with a strong swim from the 200-yard medley relay. Morling, Shea Hoyt, Isabel Herb and Kate Nagler swam 1:44.39 -- fourth-fastest in prelims. While the rest of the day had the ups and downs normally associated with the Friday at a state swim meet, Cabel was certainly not displeased with the efforts -- or the results -- turned in by his team. The cap to the successful day came when the 400 freestyle relay -- Stephanie Garvin, Morling, Nagler and Izzie Bindseil improved from a 17th seed to the ninth-fastest prelims time.
"That was a great finish there at the end to put a period on the end of the day," Cabel said. "Now we've got to get ready for tomorrow."
In her first state meet, Morling qualified seventh-fastest in the 200 IM and third-fastest in the 100 backstroke.
"I'll swim everything again that I swam today," Morling said. "It'll be rough, but I'm excited. The first day's over. The second day's the fun day, when you really go and show what you can do."
Hoyt is seeded third in the 100 breaststroke after dropping two seconds from her sectional time on Friday.
Bindseil enters Saturday's finals with the 12th-fastest prelims time in the 200 freestyle. The senior is also seeded fourth in the 500 freestyle. Together, Morling, Hoyt and Bindseil provide a strong individual presence for the Saints in the finals.
"That's the most we've had in a while," Cabel said. "It'll make it fun, more to watch. I can't wait."
By any definition, Rosary had a strong meet on Friday. The Beads dropped considerable time and improved on their seed placings with huge moves. But those moves also left the team frustrated at the end of the evening for the close proximity a strong day was to a great day.
Rosary qualified its 200 medley relay and its 200 freestyle relay in seventh place. Annie Gosselin is seeded fourth in the 200 IM and 10th in the 100 backstroke and Erin Hart is seeded sixth in the 50 freestyle and 12th in the 100 freestyle.
"Our medley was 25th coming in and they're seventh," Schalz said. "We knew coming in where we were seeded. We were 21st in the 200 free relay and ended seventh. It's tough -- you don't want to be seventh, you want to be sixth. But we could have had a great swim and been 15th, so seventh is better than that."
The margin was close in some events as well. In the 200 freestyle relay, Loyola swam 1:36.62 -- .01 faster than the Beads.
"Loyola touched us out by one-hundredth," Schalz said. "All season long, they were two seconds faster than us. That was a great swim for us -- we swam really, really well."
Then there is Kate Canfield, who swam in the second heat of the 100 backstroke, dropped three seconds from her sectional time and qualified with the fifth-fastest time in the event.
"She was in the 30s coming in and she's in the top six -- and that's the kind of day we had all day," Schalz said. "That's a great swim. She lights it up. She had a real rough year last year. She struggled. But she got dedicated and came back in great shape and now it's showing."
In just two seasons, St. Charles North sophomore Monica Guyett has fashioned a high level of success. After finishing 12th in the 500 freestyle, Guyett qualified with the seventh-fastest time for Saturday's finals.
"It's a good feeling," Guyett said. "I broke the team record. I'm super-excited to swim at finals again. It's going to be fast.
Guyett's 4:58.81 time was over three seconds faster than her sectional time in an event she calls her favorite.
"I just like the endurance of it," Guyett said. "I can sprint but it's harder. The 500 is harder but it's fun both physically and mentally.
Guyett is St. Charles North's only qualifier for Saturday's finals. North Stars coach Rob Rooney said a youthful group of swimmers gained a wealth of experience for future seasons.
"The first thing to understand is that they haven't done anything for me all year long," Rooney said. "It's all for themselves and the team. We've got (Guyett) swimming tomorrow. I'm not going to lie. We would have liked to have had a lot more."
On another fast day of state swimming, the North Stars got a chance to see the best athletes and teams -- and to see where they stood in relation to those swimmers.
"We needed to come in and swim our seed times from last week," Rooney said. "Hopefully (Guyett) can learn from last year and build off that. Then we have basically everyone back from Loriel (Hutchinson), and none of them had state meet experience until today."