Scouting DuPage County girls swimming
Top teams: Metea Valley, Naperville Central, Naperville North, Neuqua Valley, Waubonsie Valley, Downers Grove North, Hinsdale Central,
Top swimmers and divers: Addison Trail/Willowbrook Co-op: Annalise Morrone, jr.; Meghan Koterba, sr.; Elissa Haake, fr.; Downers Grove North: Emily Aument (diver), jr.; Elizabeth Aument (diver), jr.; Ellie Benge, so.; Cassandra Candel, sr.; Downers Grove South: Aimee Dragas, sr. Alyssa Reinholz, jr.; Allie Puccillio, so.; Makaila Scheiblein, so.; Nicole Molnar, fr.; Annie Leinart, fr. Glenbard North/East Co-op: Heather Rady, sr.; Grace Schwieters, fr. Glenbard West/South Co-op: Jane Denenberg, fr.; Hinsdale Central:. Jazmin Shenouda, sr.; Emily Graham so.; Mia Chiappe, jr.; Hollis Clark, so.; Maud Willemse, so.; Hinsdale South: Emily Vollmar, jr.; Brianna Veselik, so.; Cameran Frank, so.; Lake Park: Jennifer Hauser, so.; Brooke Garrett, sr.; Francesca Orlando, so.; Sarah Eishen, sr. Metea Valley: Amanda Burson sr.; Madeline Sandberg, sr.; Jacquelyn Kurkjian, sr.; Anna Scovill, so.; Sadie Gregory, so.; Naperville Central: Sydney Dusel (diver), sr.; Caitlin Guccione, sr.; Audrey Coffey, so.; Naperville North: Katie Horn, sr.; Taylor Stoner, sr.; Emily Chuang, jr.; Emily Huff, sr.; Connie Zhang, so.; Claire Russell, so,; Patti Little (diver), sr. Neuqua Valley: Amanda Brockmeier, jr.; Lauren Beyer (diver) sr.; Wyli Erlechmann jr.; Isabel French, sr.; Ryan Dulaney, jr.; Kayleigh Cannon, jr.; Sabrina Firnett, so. Waubonsie Valley: Avery Mathew, sr.; Hannah Hunt, jr.; Emma Tinney, jr.; Paige Simpson, jr.; Julia Burling, so.; Lily Hunt, fr. Wheaton Co-op: Stephanie Palczynski, jr.; Emily Gilligan (diver), jr.; Morgan Young (diver) sr.; West Chicago/Batavia Co-op: Myanna Cook, jr.; Natalie Nelson, jr.; Lindsay Bruce, sr.; Ula Konopko, so.; Raquel Cox, fr. York: Paula Nolte, sr.; Maggie Schlecht, sr.; Meghan Quinn, so.
Outlook: Naperville might just be the center of the Illinois swimming universe this season. With the three Valleys (Metea, Neuqua and Waubonsie) joining the DuPage Valley Conference, competition will be fierce as all five teams Naperville teams are talented and deep. And the local sectional should produce numerous qualifiers for November's state meet.
Neuqua Valley goes into its first year in the DVC after having finished seventh at last year's state meet. The Wildcats graduated state backstroke champion Natalie McGovern and mainstay Mackenzie Hornstra, who joined McGovern on the state champion 200 medley relay team. However, there is plenty of talent remaining, including the other two members of that relay, Brockmeier and Erlechman. Big things are expected from both juniors. Brockmeier scored in the 100 breaststroke and looks capable of moving up in the standings this time, while Erlechman is a candidate to pick up points in the 100 butterfly. Diver Beyer is also a potential scorer after coming close last year. A deep, talented group of returners gives coach Jason Niferatos a lot of options to field strong relay teams. "State is wide open this year," Niferatos said. "And right now we're probably looking at second ten. But if everything breaks right we have a chance of going higher."
Naperville Central was in that second 10 last year, and though the Redhawks lost some key operatives from that team, coach Mike Adams has a reservoir of talent to once again produce a competitive team. Diver Dusel, who won state two years ago and finished second last year, is working to regain her championship. Dusel, flyer Guccione and distance freestyler Coffey form the veteran nucleus of the team and there are several freshmen coming in who could make contributions in the relays. "I think we'll have a great year," Adams said. "We have a lot of relay options that have to be sorted and the younger swimmers have the talent and a great work ethic that could set us up for years to come."
Metea Valley, Waubonsie Valley and Naperville North were young last year but all closed strong and showed that they will among the top programs this year.
The Mustangs will be led for the fourth straight year by sprinters Burson and Sandberg, who will be keys to the qualification and potential scoring performance by the relay teams. Burson was third in the 50 free last year. Kurkjian in the backstroke and Scovill in the fly are both possible scorers. "We're established and doing well and our free relays should be pretty tough," coach Mark Jager said. "I'm hoping for a top 10 finish at state." Waubonsie Valley has some potential top 12 finishers in Hunt and Mathew and some depth that will make for some exciting relay teams. "We came on strong at the end of last year, and we're trying to build off that momentum," said coach Katie Peterson, who is looking to qualify all three relays.
Naperville North was rebuilding last year and developed a group of promising performers who are eager to deliver this year. Zhang and Chuang in particular worked hard in the off-season and came into practice seconds faster in their events. Chuang in the fly and backstroke and Zhang in the 200 free have the speed to make it to Saturday at state. They, along Stoner, Horn and several other developing young stars make coach Andy McWhirter optimistic that the Huskies relays could make some noise at state. "We have an opportunity to put some points up at state, which we haven't done in a few years."
Still in the DVC, but outside of the Naperville area, Lake Park has an outstanding group led by Hauser, a potential scorer and three great freshmen who could qualify and some strong relays. "We have better depth than we've had," coach Dan Witteveen said. "We have the talent to swim with the big dogs, but we just don't have the numbers. Glenbard North/East co-op returns Rady, who just missed state in both the 50 and the 100 and should make it this year in either of those races or possibly the breaststroke and the 200 IM. Freshman Schwieters also has a legitimate shot at state as a freestyler. Wheaton co-op has a group of young and promising swimmers, and divers Gilligan and Young are potential qualifiers.
And there are some top teams in the county outside the DVC. Downers Grove North graduated a lot of the big guns from last year's team that finished second at state. Diver Emily Aument was sixth at state and is a contender for the top spot. Her sister Elizabeth was also a qualifier and is looking to move up. "We have a lot of young girls who have been in the shadows of the group we lost," coach Judy Busse said. "They should be ready to show what they can do by the end of the season."
Hinsdale Central finished 14th at state last year and returns a good veteran core, led by qualifiers Shenouda, Graham and Chiappe. "We're still a young team, but we're excited to see how they can grow this season," coach Bob Barber said. "We have a few girls on the cusp who will give us depth at the end of the year."
York boasts state returning state qualifier in Nolte and several other possible state swimmers and the Dukes should be able to get two relays back to state.
Downers Grove South is a program on the rise with a group of potential state qualifiers. Dragas returns after swimming at state in four races in the Athletes With Disabilities Division. She's looking for a first-place finish this year. "We hope to win conference, send a few to state in individual events, and possibly the free relays," coach Paul Krick said. Hinsdale South will be battling the Mustangs for the conference title.
Addison Trail/Willobrook co-op finished just outside the top 20 as a team but graduates the 100 butterfly state champion Kelly McNamara. However, returning leaders Morrone and Koterba are determined to lead this team to another strong showing at the end of the season.
The West Chicago/Batavia co-op program is also on the upswing with two returning state qualifiers in Cook and Nelson and everyone back from the 400-free relay team that just missed scoring at state. Coach Nick Parry's top five are potential qualifiers and will give the Wildcats at least two good relays. Cook is a standout. "Myanna can score in both the backstroke and the fly," Parry said. "She's versatile, she's a leader, an extremely hard worker and she's someone we can turn to for points when we need them."
Key dates: Sept. 11-12: Neuqua Valley Invite; Sept. 19: West Chicago Wildcat Invite; Sept. 24: Metea Valley at Naperville Central; Waubonsie Valley at Neuqua Valley; Sept. 25-26 Downers Grove North Invite; Sept. 26: Rosary Invite; Oct. 2-3: Downers Grove South Invite; Oct. 8: Waubonsie Valley at Metea Valley; Oct. 10: Naperville North Invite; Hinsdale Central Diving Invite; Oct. 22: Waubonsie Valley at Naperville North; Oct.23: Metea Vlley Invite; Oct. 31: Conference Meets; Nov.14: Sectionals; Nov. 20-21: State Meet.