Girls swimming and diving: Scouting Northwest
BarringtonThe Fillies are without pair of key members from last year's conference-winning group, four-time 500 freestyle state champ and 200 free state record-holder Kirsten Jacobsen and top sprinter Sara Kate Capel. That's about the extent of the bad news for Barrington, though, which brings back a ton of returning talent along with a fresh injection of varsity-ready newcomers. Proven performers include junior Maggie Emary, who placed fifth in the 500 free at state last year, and sophomore Bridget O'Leary, already a state-meet veteran who's coming off a terrific summer season. Also back are junior Emma Graves, a state qualifier in the 100 fly and on three relays, and Catherine Kitzman, who made state in the medley relay along with Nicole Runtz. Coach Jim Bart expect returners such as senior Alice Han, juniors Sarah Langlois and Mia Chen and sophs Olivia Gawronski, Gracie Roper and Maria Pritchett to play key roles, and Nikki Barcroft and Katie Skelly are back as the top divers. New to the high school team but familiar to those following state-level age group swimming are standout sophomores Ally Penrod (breast, IM) and Maddie McFarland (back, fly). And freshmen Becca Galovich, Elisabeth Graves, Tea Ragnini and Julie Vega immediately give the Fillies varsity-ready times. Add it all up, and it figures to be a memorable finale season of high school coaching for Bart, who says, "Should have a fun season -- looking forward to the championships at the end."
Buffalo GroveOne thing is for sure: The Bison are filling up their fine pool with aquatically oriented athletes. Coach Tom Mroz puts the total number at about 60 this year, up from 20 just a couple of years ago. The key returners look to be Alexandra Jedryka, Diana Morosan, Deimante Rutkauskaite, Emily Schulstad, Samantha Swanson and divers Nikki Ruby, Patrycja Sobolak and Martina Macaggi. Among the key newcomers are Sarah Clark, Alannah Rodrigues, Vivian Wilson, Gigi Markocki and Sophie Wheeler. Mroz intends to keep the focus on specifics as the group finds in strengths. "Lots of new athletes, lots of new skills," he said. "We need to be disciplined on details, focusing on the little things on every lap, every set, every dive of every practice." The Bison figure to have distance swimming as a strength and, thanks off-season dedication, the sprint group has improved. Mroz hopes to see school records broken in all three relays and a continuance of the program's general improvement -- especially on the boards. "In diving alone, we have our largest group of 12 divers, up from only four last year. And with that growth comes some great talent that will make us competitive in diving once again in the MSL."
ConantCoach Justin Bickus is hoping an increase in intensity leads to cumulative success for his group. "I've really been impressed with the group as a whole," he said, "and I think we are already working out at a higher level than we were even late last year. This should be a good group that is overall very young, but I'm expecting some big things and am excited to coach a group that is already showing their work ethic and positive attitudes." The top talent includes senior Lea Cejvan (breat, IM), Olivia Konieczny (sprints) and Nia Tsoulos (distance, IM), who missed much of last season with injury but will provide great depth. Other leaders inlcude junior Aly Wooley (sprints), junior Esther Song (breast, IM) and hard-working, versatile sophomores Sarah Erne and Kayla Wartman. Sophomore Ashvi Palkhiwala has made great strides in the distance events, and Bickus is looking for freshmen Sydney Arnold and Abigail Hanley to make varsity contributions right away. "I think we should be at least as competitive as last year," Bickus said. "I'd like to see us have some good races at conference and possibly get a state qualifier or two through."
Elk GroveOne big positive for coach Dave Toler is total participation. With about 50 swimmers/divers out for the team, that's a big step up from recent seasons. Setting the standard at the high-achievement range of the spectrum is sophomore Anna Sprenger, who qualified for the state meet last year. Other proven competitors back from last year are seniors Kate Duffy and Hannah Sallenback, junior Abbi Farmer and sophomore Kaylee Hatfield. Rejoining the team are junior Alyssa Bonilla and sophomore Nicole Trojnar, and Toler likes what he sees in freshmen Hannah Baumeister (diving) and Abbie Franke and Rachel Ford. The improvement arc figures to be sharp at the start of the season as a generally inexperienced bunch gets its feet wet in the MSL. "The first part of season will be a lot of learning and development," Toler said. "We won't score well initially. But there is a wonderful attitude throughout. The girls are anxious to take the steps to make us a lot better at the end."
FremdThat big smile on coach Andrew Kittrell's face is because the Vikings get to spend their entire season in the very own pool, as Fremd's renovation was among the most recent of the Dist. 211 projects to be completed. Leadership for this year's team will be especially dependent on the Emily factor -- senior diver Emily Zukowski, senior sprinter Emily Kini and junior swimmer Emily Bolger -- along with junior swimmer Rebecca Ballo. "These four ladies have put in a tremendous amount of work, and have worked hard to get our large numbers of underclassmen ready to compete," Kittrell said. Expect important contributions from a big group which includes junior state-qualifying diver Carly Goodsite, junior sprinter/middle distance swimmers Anna Miller and Marie Grzybek, sophomore butterflyer Kristina Buzuloiu, junior distance swimmer Lauren Streitmatter and senior butterflyer Paulina Pappas. Buzuloiu, distance swimmer MJ Poss and sprinters Lauren Savage and Allie Kim were among the top freshmen last year who will help build the team's foundation, and Kittrell sees this year's top freshmen, Sophia Kuehn and Sarah Rothmeyer, having a quick varsity impact. "We will be a young, scrappy team for sure," Kittrell said. "Our depth is improving daily, and I think we will surprise a lot of people over the next few years with this talented, energetic group. Our team goals are simple: swim with our heads, finish with our hearts."
HerseyThe Huskies are loving their new home at Prospect and have the kind of team that could make the first season a memorable one. "The new pool at Prospect finally gives us some equalization as compared to other teams in the area," said Hersey coach Dick Mortensen. "We are now almost on level playing ground, with the only exception of not having a pool at Hersey. The facility is world-class and just by swimming and diving in it we are better already." Hersey was pretty darned good last year, having won the MSL East. And the Huskies will be in pursuit of an eighth East title in the last 10 years this season. Juniors Olivia Kusio and Madeline Bovino figure to lead the way. Kusio is the defending conference champ in the 100 breaststroke and a two-time state qualifier, and Bovino dove right in and earned a state meet spot last fall. Look for the Huskies to be especially strong in diving with seniors Ali Heidrich and Maggie Barton back in action. Other key returners include seniors Jen Lutz (fly/back), Melissa Pollina (free) and Sam Jankusky (back); junior Abby Johnstone (free) and sophomore Amy Kang (breast/IM) and diver Mackenzie Kamysz. More proven performers include Mili Meredith, Karis Agustyn, Emily Dattilo, Maddie Paz, Maddie Chadron, Katie Lindgren, Jamie Cochran and Isabella Kolodziejczyk, and Mortensen has promising freshmen in Claire Fink, Bianca Teves, Maddie Irvine and Isa Hahn. "As defending MSL East Champs, we are very focused on keeping the trophy at Hersey," he said. "We only lost five total swims from sectionals last year. We bring back a ton of experience, with the divers leading the way -- all four divers should be over 200 points to start the season. We are looking to take the next step and have goals and ability to bring numerous girls to the state meet."
Hoffman EstatesThe Hawks are excited to have their home pool back for a full varsity season and have a group that plans to take full advantage of it. That said, coach Chris Fetterman also knows that pools don't win races. He'll be counting on senior Maggie Rommel and Casey Rawlings, junior Renata Widelak and sophomores Abigail Fuscone and Benita Varanauskaite to turns up the intensity this fall. "We have a tough crew, but our athletes need to learn that training and competing with a chip on their shoulder is not a bad thing. That, for us, it is a necessity. It is the only way we move forward. We buy into that, we can do some real damage."
PalatineThe Pirates will have a much different look this fall after the graduation of a strong senior class. And Palatine's pool isn't yet finished with its overhaul, so it figures to be a challenging season in certain respects. But there's still plenty of good news for coach Brittany Berleman's group. Start with state qualifier Ellis Nelson, a junior. She placed in both the conference and sectional meets and qualified to state in the 200 IM. Also back are senior Katelyn Kurrie (middle distance/sprints) and experienced sophomore Megan Obernesser (distance, relays), another conference/sectional scorer. Divers Julia Hanson and Denise Holbrook are back as well, and the Pirates figure to get a big boost from freshmen Jane Smith (distance free) and Olivia Jarzab (fly/free). Smith excels at the distance races and has already been under the state-qualifying time in the 500 free. "We have big shoes to fill," said Berleman, referring to the graduation of Kristin Anderson, Tess O'Brien, Kelsey Hank and Mathilde Mogensen, "but the girls have already been working hard and I look forward to seeing them race. Our team is young, and we look forward to our season, and building our future."
ProspectThe Knights are taking full advantage of the 8 workout lanes they now have in their natty new natatorium. Coach Alfonso Lopez reports that he's got competition for varsity spots throughout the lineup, which only seems natural since Prospect graduated just one representative from last year's sectional team. Joining captains Janae Dawson, Emma Colehour and Cate Colehour are seniors Gracie Dix (sprints), Katie Wills (distance), Megan Pfeiffer (fly/back/IM), Samantha Berkley (free/IM) and standout diver Meghan Schmit. The junior class will get big contributions from Kaitlin Sattley, Katie Kenny, Mary Dembowski, Colleen Doyle, Brenna Lukoski and diver Abby Gonzalez. And Lopez is please with the sophs as well. Amanda Baenke (fly/IM), Katie Mueller (sprints), Emily Tuczak (breast), Kailee Costello (back), Annie McGuire (distance) and Madison Malone (diving) are collectively pushing the upperclassmen. As for freshmen, well, Lopez expects to see Caitlin Broz (IM/fly/back) and Jillian Schmit (diving) in the varsity lineup before season's end. "I know that's a lot, but we definitely have competition at just about every spot on the varsity squad, which should bode well for kids pushing each other to get faster throughout the year," Lopez said. "I really like our leadership at the varsity level, and the sophomore class is really pushing to make spots in the varsity lineup and top relays. It's a very positive group that is really loving their new home at Prospect. Having an 8-lane pool with a separate diving well has really improved practices."
Rolling MeadowsCoach Monika Chiappetta likes what she sees when it comes to an important percentage this season. That is, the percentage of her athletes who committed to summer conditioning. "We are looking forward to a larger number of girls who swam all summer," Chiappetta said. "We can't wait to see how that transfers racing, and the best-times tally." Three seniors -- Teresa Perille (free/back), Betsy Zanocco (sprints) and Grace Nykol (200/500 free) -- figure to lead the way, along with sprinter Emily Wilt and breaststroke Kate Mallek. And Chiappetta is eager to see how a nice group of freshmen can make their mark by season's end. That group includes diver Amelia Bogdal, butterflyer Jenna Pors, IM/freestyler Abby Wiltse and breaststroker Sydney Mayer. "We're looking forward to a great year," Chiappetta said.
SchaumburgTim O'Grady steps in as the Saxons' coach and will guide the program through the choppy waters as Schaumburg's pool continues to receive its upgrade. Concurrent with the physical rebuilding effort is one of team spirit. "As our pool is being built, we look to build our team off-site at Hoffman Estates," O'Grady said. "With a lot of talent, passion and energy in the pool, Schaumburg looks to build something new and admirable." Among the key building blocks are juniors Ingrid Hay (back, sprints), Sarah Nelson (free) and Logan Fidler (diving), senior Hannah Pearson (breaststroke) and sophomore Alex Wimmer (IM, free). Among the promising new materials are freshmen Hana Mollin, (IM, back, fly), Lynda Steen (fly, free) and Veronica Campbell (diving). "With a great mix of veterans and talented newcomers," said O'Grady, "we look to have a succesful season and turn some heads."
St. ViatorFirst-year coach Dillon Thompson is eager to get going with the Lions, who are enjoying a fresh setting as the school's pool has had some nice upgrades since last year. This year's team is heavy on sophomores and freshmen, but Thompson reports that there's good roster balance. "The upperclassmen on the team are leading the younger swimmers and helping to teach and develop them," he said. "I'm expecting a strong showing at conference and sectionals, with several swimmers making it to state this year." If so, they'll likely be joining senior Elizabeth Drab, who enjoyed a breakthrough season last fall and earned her first trip to state. Top swimmers returning this year include sophomore Julia Warren (distance free) and juniors Ashley Altieri (100, 200 free and 100 fly) and Georgia Christy (sprints). Thompson is a native of Indiana who competed through high school and college (Yale) before moving to the area and coaching at the club level. He's in his fifth year of coaching and eager for the challenges ahead. "I'm very excited to become a part of the St. Viator community and work on continuing the growth and success of the swimming program," he said. "This is a very exciting time at St. Viator."
Wheeling"New" is the operative term with the Wildcats, as Rob Lindgren will be coaching the team for the first time with a lineup that features many new faces. More about them later, though -- the familiar competitors include sophomore Meghan Hergert (sprints, 100 fly), senior Talia Kahn (200, 500 free) and junior Holly Schroeder (backstroke). Lindgren is counting on some 13 freshmen to round up the collective effort. "Our team has graduated a strong group last season and we look to build from the foundation that is in place with the hard-working and dedicated girls we have," said Lindgren, who is Dist. 214's aquatics coordinator. "They continue to dream fearlessly and live boldly as they team up and work hard individually and as a group. Our focus will be to work on building successful habits and continued focus on improvement for this year and for building sustained success in the long term."
-- Aaron Gabriel