In the middle of one of the tightest team finishes ever, area girls swimmers put on quite a show themselves.
Neither St. Charles East, Rosary nor St. Charles North were in trophy contention during Saturday's IHSA finals at New Trier -- but each had swimmers who earned accolades -- and for St. Charles East and Rosary, the team finishes were strong as well.
New Trier scored 160.5 points and finished 3.5 points ahead of Downers Grove North in the closest state meet team finish since Naperville Central edged Neuqua Valley 131-130 in 2005.
St. Charles East finished eighth in the meet, the best by a Saints squad since the 2000 team finished third.
"We have a really strong team this year," St. Charles East senior Shea Hoyt said. "I don't know what younger kids they are going to bring in next year, but it's a really good team this year. We're really fortunate to have had someone qualify in every event this year."
The Saints opened the day with a fifth-place finish in the 200-yard medley relay, and carried that momentum through the afternoon.
"We finalled well today," St. Charles East coach Joe Cabel said. "This is an awesome meet for us. We're going to miss some very strong seniors who are very strong both in swimming and attitude-wise. But the youth's there too and the future looks good as well."
St. Charles East's team feeling was so strong that the Saints extended it beyond themselves. You'd think that would include St. Charles North's Monica Guyett -- and it did, but as St. Charles East sophomore said, "we're all St. Charles. Us and North are always going to be together."
But the Saints added Urbana senior Gabi Rajic to their enlarged family. Rajic had a pretty good day too -- finishing ninth in the 50 freestyle and fifth in the 100 freestyle.
"Her colors are orange and black too, so we thought it was perfect," Morling said.
Morling finished ninth in the 200 IM and fourth in the 100 backstroke in her first Illinois state meet. The sophomore moved to St. Charles from Virginia in the offseason.
"Moving here, I didn't know what to expect," Morling said. "It's fast here. I'm happy with what I had and I can't wait to get back here next year."
Senior Shea Hoyt had the Saints best individual performance when she placed third in the 100 breaststroke, an improvement over her seventh-place finish in the event as a junior.
"Looking back to last year, I'm really happy with my swims today," Hoyt said. "You've got to think of the positives. Of course I wanted to win, everyone would want to win. But compared to last year, I didn't even make the 'A final.' My goal this year was to make top three and I fulfilled that."
Senior Izzie Bindseil finished eighth in the 200 freestyle and sixth in the 500 freestyle. She adds those medals to her ninth-place finish in the 500 freestyle as a junior.
"It's been exciting," Bindseil said. "Our team's been doing really well and getting better every year. We're really excited. We came out to race so that was good. I was really excited to come out and race in my last time as a Saint."
The Saints other relays swam in the consolation finals. The 200 freestyle relay finished 12th while the 400 freestyle was 11th.
Rosary finished ninth, a return to the top 10 after a one-year hiatus.
"We went into the sectional meet and we didn't suit up and I told the girls that was our plan," Rosary coach Bill Schalz said. "I told them that I'd rather not go to state than to rest everybody and then not swim well at this meet. Our goal is to be here on Saturday, to be performing and ultimately to be swimming for a trophy."
Schalz said his team is on its way toward reaching those heights again. The Beads return every member of this year's state team in 2014.
"They bought into it," Schalz said. "We had a couple of kids tapered for the sectional and they had a great meet. The kids who came through for this weekend really stepped up and performed."
The Beads had a series of top finishes, led by sophomore Annie Gosselin's fourth-placing in the 200 IM. Gosselin also finished eighth in the 100 backstroke.
"I'm so excited to become an upperclassman and to be able to come back and have even more experience in the state meet. I think having experience last year in coming to the state meet really helped a lot."
Gosselin and Erin Hart were the only Beads to score in the 2012 state meet. Hart, a junior this year, was sixth in the 50 freestyle and 12th in the 100 freestyle.
"This means I have more room to improve and that I when I am finally able to swim pain-free, I will be able to better than that and show people next year at state that I can place even higher."
Hart underwent offseason shoulder surgery and was given clearance to start swimming during preseason workouts.
"I was out for six months and I've been back for about three months," Hart said. "It's been difficult. But getting this far shows that I can do even better next year when I'm fully healed from this injury."
Hart said she's been reworking and remaking her stroke through the season, and that process will continue as she moves through the club season and toward the 2014 high school campaign. She said she is pain-free for shorter events, but not on longer races.
"It was like trying to make my strokes around the injury this year so they didn't hurt when I would swim," Hart said. "It's been difficult trying to get back to where I was before the injury."
Like Gosselin, Hart sees the future as very bright for the Beads.
"I am so proud of our team," Gosselin said. "It's truly an amazing feeling. Last year, at the end of the breaststroke, we were sitting on 34th place. This year, we sat on ninth. To move up twenty-something places in a year is a truly amazing feeling. A lot of teams are losing swimmers, but we're not losing anyone."
Rosary's third state finals qualifier was Kate Canfield, who finished sixth in the 100 backstroke.
"It's been stressful, but we've had a lot of surprises and a lot of good swims," Canfield said. "It's been pretty exciting."
Moving from a fourth-place finish in the Metro Catholic Conference meet, Rosary has improved in leaps -- first by qualifying a large number of athletes for the state meet and then with its weekend performances.
"It was expected at conference to not do really well," Canfield said. "I think we showed ourselves here what next year's about. I think we have proven ourselves."
Rosary's 200 medley relay placed seventh while the 200 freestyle relay was 10th. Overall, the Beads return every member from the 2013 team, to which talented additions will surely be added.
St. Charles North had one swim in Saturday's finals, and for the second consecutive year, Monica Guyett finished a swim season with a state medal around her neck. A year after finishing 12th in the 500 freestyle, Guyett finished eight in the event on Saturday.
"(St. Charles North coach Rob) Rooney always says we've got to watch and learn from what other people have been doing and what we have been doing. I'm just trying to get better as I go on," Guyett said.
What's more, Guyett swam 4:57.80, nearly 10 full seconds faster than she did as a freshman.
"I just did better than my fastest time, which I did (Friday) in prelims," Guyett said. "I definitely want to get into top six."
Guyett's sister Nicole was a senior on this year's St. Charles North team. Next year, there will again be two Guyetts on-deck when Audrey enters the school as a freshman.
"Right now, our records are next to each other," Monica Guyett said. "She's got the (500 freestyle) pool record and I have the team record."
One theme this season for the North Stars has been the overall improvement through the season. From a team which graduated a large group from the 2012 state team, the North Stars found leaders, had success, finished second in the IHSA St. Charles East Sectional and earned the opportunity for a number of swimmers to compete in this year's state meet."
"We're a really close group of girls," Guyett said. "Now that we swam together last year and we've had another year together, we're even closer."