Girls swimming: Stevenson sets the standard in win against Mundelein
The only way to get better is to raise the bar by competing against stiffer competition.
And with 10 underclassmen out of 14 on the varsity roster, Mundelein varsity girls swimming coach Rahul Sethna and his troops got their way on Thursday against Stevenson.
"A lot of our kids haven't competed a lot at a high level," said Sethna, whose team came up on the short end of a 143-37 decision against the visiting Patriots. "We lost some of our confidence a couple of weeks ago and started questioning ourselves. But then, even though we lost to Lake Forest, we swam well and started getting some of that confidence back. We're at the point where we try and take something positive from every meet."
The Pats won 11 out of 12 events, but Mundelein (1-5 in NSC dual meets) diver Maggie Franz has made it a habit of finishing at or near the top in most meets and invitationals this season.
Franz, who has her sights set on a return trip to state, narrowly missed making it to the top 12 last November in Evanston.
"As a freshman, just getting downstate last year was great, but I'm really shooting for top 16 this year," said Franz, who piled up 235.65 points to earn the Mustangs' only event win on Thursday. "I've been trying to incorporate a reverse one-and-a-half into my dive, and I hit the board a couple of weeks ago."
Franz broke the school record last week when she amassed 244.7 points in a six-dive effort.
"Now when I get up there," she said, "I'm not thinking so much about the drive: you just push through it."
Franz is the captain of the diving team and draws on her experiences from a Student Athletic Leadership Training (S.A.L.T.) course.
"It was great because it helps you develop individually, which in turn helps translate to better team dynamics," Franz said. "We're a young team but we're learning from each other."
Stevenson, on the other hand is where Mundelein usually is -- a lot of depth and experience, which frequently translates into victories.
And while the Patriots got the win on Thursday, it's still a bit of a puzzle and trying to optimally fit in all those moving parts.
"There's a change in culture going on here, and the girls seem happier and are swimming well and having fun," said first-year coach and Stevenson alum Kevin Zakrzewski, whose team improved to 4-2 in conference dual meets this fall. "Our mindset is we want to score and use the rankings as our motivation. We've been tired but swimming pretty consistent, and I have nothing but respect for Rahul and Mundelein's program."
According to Zakrzewski, seniors Casey Kirby and Irune Andres, junior Rachel Song, and sophomore Iza Pelka have been producing the best results to this point in the season.
All have experience at the state meet, having qualified a year ago. They're all aiming toward the kind of point-scoring state performances Zakrzewski was referring to.
"You can always get better, so our strokes are more specific," said Song, who won the 50 freestyle (25.66) and joined forces with freshman Ashley Carollo, Andres and junior Morgan Bosse in winning the 200 medley relay (1:52.81). "We're really tired right now, but we've learned to face hardship and have gotten stronger from it."
Song also joined Andres, Carollo, and junior Danielle Kameristy to win the 200 free relay in 1:43.99. Then, in the final event of the meet, Andres, Kirby, junior Jessica Lenhart, and Bosse were victorious in the 400 free relay in 3:46.62.
Pelka won the 100 breaststroke (1:17.29), while Lenhart won the 200 IM (2:20.59) and 100 backstroke (1:07.98). Carollo added a victory in the 100 butterfly (1:03.56), and Andres won the 100 freestyle (55.95). Other event winners for the Pats included sophomore Callie Coffey in the 500 freestyle (5:34.91) and junior Mila Wawer the 200 freestyle (2:04.75).
Both teams will compete in the Stevenson Invitational on Saturday, with swimming events commencing at 1 p.m.