Addison Trail/Willowbrook girls swimming coach Paul Anderson wasn't thrilled with how things turned out for his team in last week's state-qualifying meets, when a pair of relays missed out on their chance to compete on the last weekend of the season.
But that disappointment was more than offset by the good news that came in Friday's girls swimming state meet preliminaries at New Trier High School.
Junior Kelly McNamara, who attends Willowbrook, broke through with a personal-best effort of 54.71 in the 100-yard butterfly, the second-fastest time of the day. She'll be positioned next to top qualifier Mimi Schneider of Fenwick when the meet resumes at 1 p.m. Saturday.
"I don't want it to sound arrogant, but yes, I knew she was capable of the kind of swim she had today," Anderson said. "You make some tough decisions at the sectional about how to approach things, but in her case we really knew there was a good chance to have a two- or three-second time drop in her fly."
McNamara didn't mind admitting her swim was even faster than she'd hoped for.
"By about half a second," she said with grin.
Perhaps the best news was that both Anderson and McNamara believe a faster swim is possible, if certain strategic wrinkles get ironed out.
"I was able to show her some things right after her race on an iPad," Anderson said. "I feel like I should send Apple a thank-you note."
The team picture entering finals is crowded with New Trier, Fenwick and Downers Grove North vying for top-three finishes.
How they'll finish is anyone's guess, but Downers North coach Judy Busse likes how her team is positioned.
"Our goal was to have our best finish ever a state meet," she said, "and we've got more horses in the barn than ever before. We're thrilled."
The pace-setter for the Trojans is senior Gabby Sims, the top qualifier in the 100 back and the second-fastest in the 100 free. All three Downers Grove North relays made the finals, and Gabrielle Serniute made the 200 IM final. Emily Albrecht (50 free) and Maddy Sims and Daria Wick (100 fly) are in the consolation finals.
Naperville Central sophomore Sydney Dusel had a terrific performance in diving, totaling 311.80 through her first eight dives and the top point total entering finals. Her nearest competitors are Tally Ford of New Trier and Dana Liva of Prospect. Redhawks junior Sophia Heiser will also finished in the top 12; she qualified eighth at 271.70.
Naperville Central will also have its 200 medley relay of Kamryn Gallowich, Sydney Weeks, Beth Ryan and Erin Stevens in the finals; they qualified sixth in 1:45.66. And Weeks, a sophomore, made finals in the 100 breaststroke, qualifying fifth in 1:03.97.
Neuqua Valley coach Jason Niforatos said he looked at the state meet prelims as a big developmental opportunity for his team.
"We opened some eyes by finishing third last year," he said, "so today was more about getting some of our younger swimmers exposed to what the state meet is all about."
They can certainly learn from the example set by junior Natalie McGovern, who had the fourth-fastest qualifying effort in the 100 backstroke.
Niforatos said his goals for Saturday's sessions are a bit unconventional.
"I want our girls to be the leaders in having fun," he said. "That's what this is all about."
Competitors from DuPage County earning consolation final swims include Madeline Hunt of Waubonsie Valley (50 free, 100 back), Naperville North's Devin Jacobs (200 IM) and Metea Valley's Madeline Sandberg (100 free) and Amanda Burson (50 free).