As Mundelein senior Karrie Kozokar stood on the starting blocks, she knew she would be 50 yards from making history Saturday afternoon.
Kozokar also knew she wasn't going to have to do anything out of the ordinary.Junior teammates Erin Falconer, Jenn Kordik and Rachel Robb were doing what they usually do by leading the way in the 200-yard freestyle relay in the 39th annual girls state swimming and diving meet.
And shortly after Kozokar touched first, she was celebrating with Falconer, Kordik and Robb as they brought the Mustangs the first swimming event title in girls history with a 1:34.58 at New Trier in Winnetka.
"Amazing," Kordik said of the Mustangs' first boys or girls relay title as they held off Downers Grove North by .79 seconds.
"It's so exciting, especially going up against some awesome competition and being able to come out on top," said Robb, who had a 24.1 split and was called the key to the title and Friday's 1:34.77 preliminary race by Mundelein coach Rahul Sethna.
"It's still unbelievable to even think about it," Falconer said after capping a day where she finished second the 100 and 200 frees and led off the third-place 400 free relay. "This was the greatest meet of my life and I'm so happy I got to share it with the other girls. Nobody deserves it more than those three."
Falconer, Kozokar, Robb and Kordik's 3:26.61 in the final event also made it the best state meet in Mundelein history as it finished fifth with 82 points and ahead of North Suburban Conference rivals Lake Forest (78) and Stevenson (74) in sixth and seventh. New Trier won its fourth consecutive title and upped its state record to 14 by edging Downers Grove North 160.5-157.
"I'm so proud and so happy to represent our school," Kordik said after Mundelein easily surpassed last year's 13th-place finish that was its previous best.
"I'm still in shock right now," Kozokar said. "To finish on this note, I couldn't ask for anything better."
Sethna said their 200 free relay time in the prelims provided a big boost for the finals.
"We were so confident going into today," Robb said.
"Then entire race was surreal with everyone going crazy," Kordik said of the ear-splitting noise level from the crowd.
And Sethna knew the Mustangs would be in good shape if they were in front when it was Kozokar's turn to close the deal.
"They had given me a huge lead, which they've done all season," Kozokar said. "That makes me even more confident, knowing my teammates have done all they can do."
Falconer narrowly missed titles in the 200 free (1:47.21), when she was overtaken by Barrington's Kirsten Jacobsen (1:46.98) in the final 50, and in the 100 (50.29) against Downers North's Gabby Sims (50.12). But Falconer gladly traded individual glory for a historic group effort.
"That makes it even more exciting," Falconer said. "To get to share such a special moment with three of my teammates is amazing. I'm so happy."
And they gave it a shot at another title in the 400 free relay before finishing behind Downers North and Fenwick.
"They've been so coachable and so positive and that always helps," Sethna said. "You can take away the team place and it's been a great year with these girls."
The emotion of ending four years with a successful senior-dominated team hit Stevenson's Julia Wawer after she and teammate Cheryl Xiang won four medals apiece in their final high school meet.
"Oh my gosh," Wawer said as she fought back tears. "This is the greatest group of girls you could ever have. I love all of them."
Xiang took fourth in the 100 (51.5) and 200 (1:51.24) frees and Wawer was sixth in the 100 (52.18) and ninth in the 200 (1:52.67). They also combined with Courtney Kamin and Riley Kirby for sixth-place finishes in the 200 and 400 free relays.
Rebecca Hannon also medaled by taking 12th in the 500 free and swimming on the 12th-place 200 medley relay with Kirby, Leah Bloodgood and Kamin.
"We gave it our all," Wawer said.
"I'm proud of everybody on the team, every single person," Xiang said. "I know we could have done better, but I wouldn't change anything."
Libertyville's 200 medley relay of freshman Meredith Robbins, sophomores Macey Neubauer and Staci Herchenbach and senior Sophia Lex took ninth in 1:47.08. Warren got its first girls state medalists in 18 years as freshman Courtney Barker, senior Megan Delfeld and seniors Jessie Grasty and Paige Wells took 10th in the event in 1:47.58.
Jacobsen also won the 500 free in 4:46.93 and just missed the state meet record by .27 seconds.