Top teams: Naperville Central, Neuqua Valley, Downers Grove North, Addison Trail/Willowbrook co-op.
Top swimmers and divers: Addison Trail/Willowbrook: Kelly McNamara, sr.; Molly Hill, sr.; Annalise Morrone, so, Meghan Koterba, jr. Benet: Mary Claire Webb, sr.; Ally Michaels, so.; Alanna Galvin, sr.; Laura Mathews, sr.; Kelly Wentland, sr.; Downers Grove North: Emily Albrecht, sr.; Gabrielle Serniute, sr. Lindsay Mathys, so.; Daria Wick, sr.; Emily Aument (diver), so.; Elizabeth Aument (diver) so.; Elle Benge, fr.; Glenbard North/East co-op: Heather Rady, jr.; Kathleen Acord, sr.; Glenbard West/South: Hera Miao, sr., Paige Lay, sr. Hinsdale Central: Margaret Kaufman, sr.; Margaret McCarthy (diver), sr.; Jazmin Shenouda, jr.; Emily Graham, fr.; Hinsdale South: Rachel Hawken, sr.; Emily Vollmar, so.; Brianna Veselik ,fr.; Victoria Frank, sr. Lake Park: Brooke Garrett, jr. Danielle Wojciechowski (diver) sr.; Metea Valley: Amanda Burson, jr.; Madeline Sandberg, jr.; Nikki Cast (diver) so.; Hannah Davidsen, sr.; Jacquelyn Kurkjian, jr.; Naperville Central: Sydney Dusel (diver) jr. Kamryn Gallowich, sr., Caitlin Guccione, jr.; Sydney Weeks, jr.; Carolina Matamoros, jr. Sophia Heiser, (diver) sr. Audrey Coffey, fr.; Naperville North: Katie Horn, jr.; Taylor Stoner, jr.; Emily Chuang, so; Connie Zang, fr.; Claire Russell, fr.; Jill Eiken, sr.; Neuqua Valley: Natalie McGovern, sr.; Mackenzie Hornstra, sr.; Bhavya Kumeran, sr.; Amanda Brockmeier, so.; Lauren Beyer (diver) jr.; Michelle Roth (diver), sr.; Wyli Erlechman, so.; Waubonsie Valley: Avery Mathew, jr.; Hannah Hunt, so.; Alexa Steffl, sr.; Emma Tinney, so.; Paige Simpson, so.; Wheaton co-op: Amanda Stiegal, sr.; Stephanie Palczynski, so.; Emily Gilligan (diver), so.; Morgan Young (diver) jr.; West Chicago/Batavia co-op: Myanna Cook, so.; York: Jessica Woolfe, sr.; Paula Nolte, jr.
Outlook: Dusel won the state diving championship last year as a sophomore and she could be even better this time around. Right from the beginning of her Naperville Central time, coaches and observers knew that Dusel had the technique and the mental approach to accomplish great things, and this year she's bigger, stronger and more confident. "Sydney spent the off-season building her strength," said Redhawks diving coach David Likar. "Now she's jumping higher, spinning faster and she has the courage to add new dives with higher DDs. She knows what she wants to do and how to accomplish it. She's always been that way." With the defending champ leading the way, DuPage County continues to be the center of girls diving in Illinois. (Benet's Taylor Kramer was the state champion on 2012 and Neuqua Valley's Laurin Mikulecky won in 2010). Four other divers who finished in the top 12 at state are from local schools and they're all back to challenge for supremacy.
Hinsdale Central's McCarthy finished fifth in last year's competition while Downers Grove twins Emily and Elizabeth Aument finished seventh and eighth, respectively, and Dusel's teammate Heiser produced her second straight scoring performance with a ninth-place finish. And there's a lot more than diving talent in this year's aquatic picture. Downers Grove North finished second in the team standings, and while the Sims sisters, double state champ Gabby and high-scoring, Maddy, graduated, there's plenty returning including Serniute, Albrecht, Mathys and Wick, all of whom swam on the Trojans relay teams finished first in the 200 medley and the 400 free and second in the 200 free. "We have some potential state champs in this group. We would like to make another run at a trophy," said Trojans coach Judy Busse. "The girls have the experience and they know what it takes." Freshman Benge is a welcome addition.
Naperville Central finished 10th at state and the Redhawks have the depth and balance, and those two divers, to challenge the top teams once again. "We still have a long way to go," said coach Mike Adams. "But the team looks good and you can feel the excitement."
Last season was supposed to be a rebuilding year for Neuqua Valley as the Wildcats had graduated many of the stars who produced three-straight top 10 finishes. But the building came in ahead of schedule as a hard-working group led by McGovern and Hornstra fought its way into 15th place at state. The personnel is there, and poised to improve upon last year's results. "We have high expectations," said Wildcats coach Jason Niferatos. "We have a lot of girls with the potential to do well at the state meet. There's great competition for all the individual events and relays, and a strong freshman class coming up to make everyone work that much harder."
Addison Trail/Willowbrook Co-op, which came in at No.18, is led by McNamara who finished second in the 100 butterfly. "Kelly is nowhere near her ceiling," said coach Paul Anderson. "She's an unbelievable worker, she's athletic and a vocal leader." The Co-op team has the talent to put together a top-flight medley relay led by McNamara and breast-stroker Morrone. Anderson has a few other potential qualifies as well as an athletic and eager freshman class, but after losing 14 swimmers to graduation, depth will be a problem.
In the DVC, Naperville North, which has some potential qualifiers led by Chuang, is capable of scoring in two events, will again provide formidable competition for its crosstown rivals. Lake Park, Wheaton Co-op and Glenbard North/East Co-op all have a strong nucleus and each has several individuals and perhaps a relay, that can make it to state, the numbers will be a problem in dual meets and invites against the deeper teams..
Metea Valley and Waubonsie Valley will battle Neuqua Valley in the Upstate Eight, before all three join the DVC next year.
The Mustangs are led by juniors Burson (11th in the 50 free) and Sandberg (11th in the 100 free) while the Warriors, who finished just outside the top twenty return three people in Steffl, Tinney and Mathew who competed on a 200 free relay team that finished 11th at state. West Chicago/Batavia Co-op has a potential scorer in Cook in the fly and the 100 free.
Benet returns a number of state qualifiers and there's an impressive freshman class to give the Redwings better depth than they've had in a while. There are at least three potential scorers among the veterans and a relay or two that could come back on Saturday.
Hinsdale Central has been a little down the past two years but there is still some talented athletes who help the Red Devils make some noise in conference and at sectionals. The freshman and sophomore classes are both strong and promise to help bring the Red Devils back to state contender status in the future.
Glenbard West/South Co-op will be more competitive with several prospective qualifiers. This is a growing program that will field both varsity and JV teams for the first time.
Hinsdale South finished second in conference last year with some future stars getting the experience they needed to advance to the next level. Coach Beth Walker is aiming for the conference championship and she expects several individuals and at least one relay to make it to state this year.
Key dates: Sept. 13: Neuqua Valley Invitational; Sept. 20: Metea Valley Diving Invite; West Chicago Wildcat Invite; Sept. 27: Downers Grove North Trojan Invite; Oct. 2: Naperville Central at Naperville North; Oct. 4: Downers Grove South Invite; Oct. 11: Naperville North Invitational; Oct. 25: Metea Valley Mustang Invite; Nov. 1: Conference meets; Nov. 15: Sectional meets: Nov. 21-22: Illinois State Finals.
-- Neil Shalin