Girls swimming: Relay strength raises the bar for Stevenson
The precedent has been set.
Stevenson's 400-yard freestyle relay team of seniors Morgan Bosse and Rachel Song, sophomore Ashley Carollo and junior Iza Pelka made sure of it this weekend as they put the finishing touches on a fifth-place team finish in the final event of the girls swimming and diving state meet Saturday afternoon at Evanston Township High School.
Going into the weekend as the top seed, the quartet swam a 3:33.06 in the championship heat after finishing sixth in the prelims less than 24 hours earlier.
The future's in good hands, especially with Pelka and Carollo returning next year.
"We had no idea we'd be the top seed coming in, so it's been exciting to get the experience that goes along with being the top seed. But this 400 relay is a great group as a whole and we also have a good group of younger girls coming in," said Pelka, no stranger to state having just completed her third trip here.
"And our coach (Kevin Zakrzewski) is awesome. He always has us prepared. We should be in good shape to keep coming down here for years to come."
Senior Danielle Fang is another heralded swimmer that competed on Stevenson's state qualifying 200-medley relay team.
She relished her final trip to Evanston.
"This has been a great group. We've had excellent chemistry," said Fang, who is undecided about where she'll be attending college and possibly swimming next fall. "A lot of it has to do with trust in ourselves and knowing everyone has each other's backs."
That medley quartet, consisting of Carollo, Fang, Song and Bosse, was ninth after Friday prelims and held that spot Saturday after swimming a 1:47.28 in the consolation finals.
Meanwhile, Pelka had as busy weekend as she also swam in two individual events.
She first finished fifth in the championship heat of the 200 freestyle, swimming a 1:51.72. She then won her consolation heat of the 500 free to finish seventh in 4:59.66.
Senior Jessica Lenhart also competed individually in the 100 butterfly and made a nice jump. After a 12th-place finish in the prelims Friday just got her in, Lenhart dropped some time and wound up seventh after swimming a 56.14 in the consolation finals.
Song also made it to the consolation finals of the same event and wound up ninth after swimming a 56.51.
Carollo competed individually in 100 backstroke and finished sixth in the championship heat after swimming a 57.30.
It's been a tough week for Warren, but Courtney Barker also went out with a bang in this her senior campaign before heading to Tulane.
Barker made it to the championship heat of the 100 backstroke and consolation finals of the 50 freestyle.
In the 50, she came away with a ninth-place medal after swimming a 23.78.
"I did better than yesterday, but I have my team here cheering me on so that's the most important thing, especially after the week we've had," said Barker after competing in her final high school event, the 100 backstroke.
"It's kind of sad being the last meet but I've still got lots of swimming ahead of me. I'm so glad I decided to come out for swimming. It's been the best four years. Time goes so fast, though. But I'm pretty happy with how we've done."
Speaking of her best event, Barker capped off the day by earning a fifth-place medal in the championship heat of the 100-backstroke after clocking with a time of 57.26.
Senior diver Morgan Paul did Libertyville proud by finishing eighth after amassing 407.40 points after the finals Saturday.
And something says MacKenzie Strong will be a household name at the state meet before it's all said and done.
Due to vision impairment, Strong competes in four events for athletes with disabilities.
The freshman made Mundelein proud after collecting medals in each race. She was third in the 100 breaststroke, fourth in the 50 freestyle, and fifth in both the 200 and 100 freestyles.
• Rosary repeated as team state champion, getting victories in both freestyle relays and from Camryn Streid in the 100 butterfly to finish comfortably on top with 185.5 points.
Bad news for the rest of the state: Of the 12 relay legs for Rosary, only two were taken by a senior, Alexis Yager. She also finished second in the 200 IM and tied for third in the 100 breast.
Urbana junior Ema Rajic broke the state record in the 200 IM, winning in 2:00.27. Later in the meet, Rajic bettered the 100 breaststroke state record she'd set in Friday's prelims with a winning time of 1:00.77.
Senior Ella Tierney won the 500 free in 4:48.45 and placed second in the 200 free to help Loyola grab the second-place trophy with 131 points.
Junior Georgia White was a champion in both the 100 and 200 freestyles as Oswego East took third with 120 points.
Oak Park sophomore Natalie Ungaretti won the 50 free (23.31), and Edwardsville senior Bailey Grinter won the 100 back (54.36).