Girls swimming: Vernon Hills notches 2nd straight sectional title
With the format allowing only two entries for each event, it was time to take advantage. Especially if you're one of the smaller schools like Vernon Hills.
On Saturday afternoon at the Lake Forest girls swimming and diving sectional, the Cougars continued their habit of picking on the bigger schools. On the line were berths to the state finals next Friday and Saturday at Evanston Township High School.
"There is no tomorrow. Today is the day to put your best foot forward," said Vernon Hills first-year coach A.J. Block.
Or best arm, perhaps.
"We're not a big school but with this format, we can match up well with other schools and their two entries," Block said."
Whatever the case, Block's girls won 7 out of 12 events to repeat as sectional team champions. Last year was the school's first sectional title in girls swimming.
Vernon Hills earned 281 points to outdistance runner-up Libertyville (201) and third place Warren (185).
"It feels great. These girls love to swim and have worked hard all season. We're really happy with our swims today," added Block.
Ally Landis got things going in the morning, setting a school record of 432.35 points to win the diving competition.
The Cougars piggybacked off that when it came time to hit the pool later on, as evidenced by the champion 200 medley relay team of Claudia Yoon, Emma Zhang, Aleksandra Skatchkov, and Drew Petereit that touched in 1:46.95, another school record.
The 200 freestyle relay also qualified after Ellie and Anna Long, Petereit, and Casey Craffey finished in 1:36.80.
Vernon Hills then capped off the championship Saturday when the quartet of Petereit, Ellie Long, Craffey, and Anna Long swam a 3:31.60 in winning the 400 free relay.
Craffey (1:52.03) and Anna Long (1:53.88) qualified in the 200 freestyle. Craffey also qualified in the 500 freestyle (4:59.66) and Yoon (57.86) and Skatchkov (58.30) in the 100 backstroke.
Petereit also qualified in the 50 freestyle (23.86), while Skatchkov (56.47) qualified in the 100 butterfly and Anna (52.51) and Ellie Long (52.83) made it to Evanston in the 100 freestyle. Junior Avery Longdon is also looking at an at-large berth in diving, where she amassed 355.50 points.
Libertyville junior Emma Gleason and sophomore Alex Eastmond qualified in three events. Both swam on the qualifying 200 medley relay where they joined juniors Anna Heard and Paige Rankin in a time of 1:47.36.
"I'm pretty happy with my swims," said Gleason, now a three-time state qualifier who had personal bests in all of her events Saturday. "Worrying about it doesn't help. I'm fully tapered and as long as I'm prepared, all I can do is see what I can do."
Gleason then qualified in the 200 freestyle (1:51.84) and 100 butterfly (54.94), while Eastmond also made it in the 100 backstroke (57.82) and 100 freestyle (52.70). Junior Cameron Hamilton is also hoping for an at-large berth in diving (346.55).
Warren senior Alyssa Church is looking to go out in style after qualifying in three events.
She first swam anchor on the 200 medley relay, where she joined fellow senior Carissa Barker and freshmen Hailey Benoit and Grace Bevers to touch in 1:38.07.
"This is my last hurrah, so I'm trying to go out with a bang," said Church, who also made it to Evanston individually in the 200 freestyle (1:53.78) and 100 freestyle (52.81). This is her third year going to state.
"I'm fully tapered and happy with what I've done. I had personal bests in my individual events and am just trying to stay consistent," she said.
The Blue Devils also had Barker qualify in the 50 freestyle (24.08) and 100 backstroke (58.13), while Benoit made it in the 100 backstroke (58.39) as well and sophomore Annalise Stingle qualified in the 100 butterfly (57.90).
Mundelein kicked off the sectional in fine fashion as sophomores Jodi Lawson (367.50) and Elle Mishler (349.70) are looking good for at-large berths in diving.
"That was a great way to start," said Mustangs coach Rahul Sethna, whose girls finished fourth in the team standings after collecting 165 points to edge out fifth-place Lake Forest (163).
In the first event, the quartet of junior Angela Bowes, sophomore Adry Kasemets, and seniors Kate Hay and Angela Kordik excited the Mundelein faithful after qualifying in the 200 medley relay in 1:47.19. All had personal-best split times. It was the first time in four years the Mustangs have qualified a relay for state.
"I'm at a loss for words," said Kasemets, who was swarmed by her teammates after winning the 200 IM in 2:09.13.
"We were trying hard for coach Sethna. We wanted to have a bigger group go (to state) than last year. I started crying because we broke the school record in the 200 IM and will get to see our names on the wall now. And I was really determined to win that IM."
Junior Kendra Joachim for host Lake Forest qualified in the 200 freestyle (1:53.31) and 500 freestyle (5:08.09), while freshman Taylor Cekay is hoping for an at-large berth in diving (355.15).
Mundelein junior MacKenzie Strong and Lake Forest junior Julia Tanna both qualified in four events for athletes with disabilities. They will compete in Evanston in the 200 free, 50 free, 100 free, and 100 breaststroke.
Mundelein's Sethna was recognized as the sectional coach of the year, while Vernon Hills' Nathan Lightman was awarded sectional diving coach of the year.