Girls swimming: For Scout Foundation the big winner in St. Charles meet

In the old hymnal standard, "Blessed Be the Tie That Binds," there are the words: "The fellowship of kindred minds is like to that above."

There could be no more perfect embodiment of that line or hymn than what St. Charles' girls swim teams have done in conjunction with their annual dual meet in the last two years, raising money to benefit the For Scout Foundation.

The foundation, named in honor of St. Charles resident and avid swimmer Scout Cantrell, who passed away 23 months ago, has become special to St. Charles' girls swim teams. Scout's older sister Kate is a sophomore on St. Charles North's varsity team, but she also swam for the St. Charles Swim Club, and athletes on both teams knew her.

"There's a whole underlying thing with this meet that's bigger than the meet," St. Charles North coach Rob Rooney said. "I think the For Scout Foundation is helping unite the swimming community in this town, and that's good. There are a lot of people who want to go 'East-North' and 'North-East' - and we can both be teams working to do things, and the For Scout Foundation is helping us to do that, and that's positive."

On Tuesday, as they did in 2015, swimmers from both teams wore pink caps with their respective school logos while fans wore pink T-shirts in support of the foundation, and the amounts raised were substantial. A check was presented for $4,840, onto which was added $500 by the St. Charles East team. Young Ella Schuldt won the 50-50 raffle and returned the $407, which added a further $814.

All of it left Felicity Cantrell, Scout and Kate's mother, choked up as she spoke during a break in the meet, when she mentioned that her father, Stephen Lohm, passed away a week ago in New Jersey, and one of his final requests was that $30,000 be donated on behalf of him and his surviving wife Sharon to the foundation as a gift to the swimmers and people of St. Charles.

"We just had a woman come up before the meet tonight and say she had lost her job and she's pregnant and that she'd heard that there might be something here about free lessons. I'm glad to say that because of the For Scout Foundation, her son will be learning to swim," Felicity Cantrell said.

Other causes of the For Scout Foundation include animal rescue, supplies and instruments for art and music classroom and ADA compliant playground equipment. The generosity of the foundation's work is not lost on either the Saints or the North Stars.

"To take something so terrible and to make it a positive for the future is wonderful," St. Charles East coach Joe Cabel said. "Felicity and her husband Tony have created an enduring legacy and, for our girls, that's a pretty powerful moment. It's a great life lesson."

The meet was the usual competitive contest that takes place every time the swimmers from St. Charles gather, with St. Charles North winning this year's meet 110-76.

"This meet is fun," St. Charles North sophomore Mallory Jump said. "Obviously we're on different teams, but we can come together for this one big cause, and I think that gets everyone super excited. It's a family that's part of our team, but they're part of the community, and that the money's going back to help, I think that's awesome."

Jump was one of the North Stars' stars, winning the 200-yard IM in 2:07.60. She also won the 100 butterfly in 57.04.

"I'm pleased - I feel like my motivation is 100 percent better than last year," Jump said. "I was super excited for this season. Last year, I was new and didn't know what to expect."

Rooney said his youthful team is showing signs of what it can become by the time the season ends in November.

"We need to build off of what we have done the last couple of years as we move forward," Rooney said. "We are working really hard. We're in better shape than we were last year. We've got a lot of good things going and we are a team that can be good."

St. Charles North swept all three relays and got individual victories from Kayleigh Lewis in the 50 freestyle and the 100 freestyle and from Audrey Guyett, who won the 100 backstroke.

St. Charles East also graduated a number of talented swimmers a year ago, but has many pieces for a successful season already in-place.

"We swam well tonight but we just came up against a good team in St. Charles North," Cabel said. "It was a classic East-North meet - St. Charles looked good as a whole."

Among St. Charles East's strong swimmers was senior Amy Pearson, who won the 500 freestyle in 5:11.12 and also finished second in the 200 freestyle.

"Coach Cabel and I have been working on some different kinds of training," Pearson said. "We've been switching it up on alternate days with distance and power. I think that's really evident when I swim. I'm having a lot more fun this season. Obviously, it's my last, so I'm having fun."

As with the other swimmers and coaches, Pearson said the importance of the day was not lost on her.

"We're here to swim for Scouty, with our friends from North and our teammates from North from club," Pearson said. "There's so much more than just a swim meet. We have been talking all week about how we were going to focus on the cause and swim with North instead of trying to beat them. The cause is way more important."

Among newcomers with immense talent for the Saints is freshman Mary Jania, who won the 100 breaststroke in 1:05.88.

"She's got a great attitude and she's a fun kid. She adds a nice spark to the team. There's physical and there's mental, and she has a nice spirit too," Cabel said.

The Saints swept the top three places in diving, led by LJ Cairne's 168.05 score.

"Nikki Schropp's doing a great job with our divers," Cabel said. "LJ Cairne's a new diver for us and she won tonight. Then Molly (Moss) and Courtney (Green) are seniors."

At the midpoint of the season, Cabel said his team is close to where he'd like to see them. There is one month before the St. Charles schools head to the Upstate Eight Conference meet.

"We're really aggressive on the front half of our races," Cabel said. "We're having a problem with the last 25 (yards.) I'd like to think we're in good shape, but at the very end of the race, we're not quite there yet."

  St. Charles East's Molly Moss competes in diving against St. Charles North Thursday at the Norris Recreation Center pool in St. Charles. John Starks/
  Felicity Cantrell speaks to the crowd about her daughter Scout and the foundation she formed in her honor during the St. Charles East vs. St. Charles North girls swim meet Thursday at the Norris pool in St. Charles. The For Scout Foundation has raised thousands for several charities. At right are her daughter Katie, who swims for St. Charles North, and her husband Tony. John Starks/
  St. Charles East's Ann O'Malley starts from the blocks in the 100-yard butterfly against St. Charles North Thursday at the Norris pool in St. Charles. John Starks/
  St. Charles North's Katie Cantrell pushes from the blocks in lane 2 in the 100-yard freestyle against St. Charles East Thursday at the Norris pool in St. Charles. John Starks/
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