West Chicago/Batavia co-op doesn't want to be overlooked
The West Chicago/Batavia co-op girls swimming team might not be one of the deeper teams at this weekend's powerful Neuqua Valley sectional, but coach Nick Parry believes that his young squad is capable of making making some noise.
"Top to bottom this is the deepest sectional in the state," Parry said. "It's unbelievably good. A few years ago we finished 11th in a relay and qualified, and there were 13 or 14 qualifiers in the 100 butterfly."
At the head of this year's class is Rosary, which has talent reminiscent of the Beads teams that won all those state titles a few years ago.
Naperville Central is usually a strong contender, while Neuqua Valley has put together a top-flight team that has improved throughout the season. Others such as Waubonsie Valley, Metea Valley and Naperville North are strong teams with a lot of depth.
"This sectional produces a lot of qualifiers," Parry said. "And while we don't have the numbers of some of these other teams, we know some of our girls are capable of getting to state."
The Wildcats are led by returning state qualifiers Myanna Cook and Natalie Nelson, who are hoping to qualify in two individual events and leading a pair of free relay teams to the state meet which will be held next week at New Trier in Winnetka.
Cook, a junior, qualified for state the backstroke and butterfly last year but fell short of scoring.
At this year's sectional she will be going in the fly and the 200 freestyle and the two free relays.
West Chicago's 400 freestyle relay team that qualified for state last year returns intact.
Nelson, a junior, was 17th in the 50 free and also will swim the 100 free.
Parry believes that both Cook and Nelson can score in their individual events.
Senior Lindsay Bruce and sophomore Ula Konopko are the other members of that 400 free relay who are a year older and a year stronger.
"We would like to qualify four individual events and the two free relays for state, all with the hope of scoring," Parry said. "The four girls who went to state last year know the environment and they've handled it. We just have to trust their experience and success. And they will be motivated by the strong competition they'll face at sectional."
Sydney Dusel of Naperville Central won the state diving championship two years ago as a sophomore and lost last year by only 8 points to Prospect's Dana Liva, who graduated.
Dusel, who will attend the University of Virginia, is determined to go out as state champion in her senior year. Her first step toward regaining the crown is this Saturday's sectional at Neuqua Valley.
"Sydney is focused on being the state champion," said Naperville Central diving coach David Likar. "She's excited and confident about herself, and she knows what she has to do to win it again."
Dusel, the DuPage Valley Conference diving champion, also won the Evanston Invite, where she faced most of the top divers in the state, and the Palatine Invite.
"She's gone up against everyone," Likar said.
"She hasn't lost a meet all year," Likar said. "Her degree of difficulty is probably unmatched by anyone in the state. And she's happy doing the same 11 dives she's been working to perfect since the beginning of the season."
Likar said that Dusel is a better diver than she was a year ago.
"She's getting more height on her dives because she's getting stronger due to her weight training," Likar said. "She's getting beautiful lines on her entries."
Neuqua Valley diving coach Gerry Petit also is expecting big things from Wildcats senior Lauren Beyer and sophomore Cloe Pace, who finished second and third, respectively, in the DVC meet.
Beyer, a former gymnast who just missed the state finals last year in just her second year as a diver, has a good chance to score this year.
"She's a great athlete," Petit said. "And she's very tough. She has great entries, has a high (degree of difficulty) and she's more experienced now."
The coach is looking for great things from Pace, this year and especially down the road.
"Cloe is graceful and has mental toughness," Petit said. "She's a future candidate for state champ."
The Downers Grove North sectional will feature divers Emily and Elizabeth Aument of the host Trojans, who will also be contenders for state. Emily finished sixth at state last year.
Ready to go:
Metea Valley goes into the Neuqua Valley sectional with seniors Amanda Burson, Madeline Sandberg and Jacquelyn Kurkjian leading the team.
All four-year varsity members and returning state qualifiers, they're determined to get back to state this weekend and all are hoping to score.
Burson, who has qualified for state all three years, finished third in the 50 freestyle and 11th in the 100 last year.
Sandberg, who will attend TCU, has also been a top sprinter for all four years and she's been hitting her peak late in the season. Kurkjian is a contender to score in the 100 backstroke.
"These three girls have been the backbone of our program for four years," said Metea Valley coach Mark Jager. "And they've all grown both as athletes and as people."
Jager is looking to qualify all three relays -- which also feature sophomores Anna Scovill and Sadie Gregory and freshman Riley Stone -- and he believes junior diver Nicole Cast can qualify as well.
"Our girls are competitors and we expect them to rise to the challenge on Saturday," Jager said.