Girls swimming: Barrington teams up for sectional triumph
Advancement to the state meet in high school girls swimming and diving is strictly an individual proposition.
Thus, there's no tangible reward for having won the sectional meet as a team -- but there was Barrington, thoroughly enjoying the post-competition proceedings at its own pool Saturday.
The Fillies took top honors with 309 points, and as first-year coach Alex Mikolajewski pointed out, there certainly are plenty of intangible rewards that go with that distinction.
"The girls like winning," he said. "Who am I to argue?"
That individual effort was led by junior Ally Penrod, whose victories came in the 100-yard freestyle (52.06) and the 100 breast (1:03.79).
Senior Maggie Emary won the 500 free in 4:59.29 and also advanced in the 200 free. Junior Catherine Kitzman won the 200 IM (2:07.85) and earned another trip to state in the 100 breast (1:05.18).
Junior Bridget O'Leary advanced in both her individual races, the 200 free (1:52.11) and the 500 free (4:59.85), in second place both times. Rounding out the individual event qualifiers was freshman Emma Pritchett in the 100 fly (2nd, 56.94), and sophomore Anne Mae King has a chance at an at-large berth in diving after finishing sixth (389.40).
Collectively, too, Barrington excelled.
The medley of Emary, Kitzman, Pritchett and Penrod won in 1:45.19, crushing both pool and team records. The 200 free relay of Julie Vega, Emma Graves, Addy Reader and Bridget O'Leary snuck in ahead of the state cut in second place, and the meet-ending 400 quartet of Becca Galovich, Emary, Penrod and O'Leary punctuated a successful day by winning in 3:30.57.
"I'm just so proud of my teammates," said O'Leary, who credited Mikolajewski with creating a great team atmosphere this season.
Making a big difference in Barrington's success is Penrod, whose improvement in the freestyle sprints has elevated those relays dramatically.
"It's hard to have a perfect sectional meet," said Mikolajewski, who earned sectional coach of the year honors. "But we had the kind of day you want to have -- best times of the season from everyone, and we're where we wanted to be heading into next week."
Stevenson senior Iza Pelka can make a similar claim after winning both the 200 free (1:49.18) and the 100 fly (55.81).
The 200 time was a pool record and will have her among the state meet's top seeds. Adding in the butterfly was a switch, though, as it replaced the 500 free in her events list.
"It comes down to, I think I'm just a little more confident in the fly now," she said. "With the 500, that's a race that just takes a lot."
Having a collegiate future at Tulane settled also has been a positive for Pelka.
"I feel like I'm back to swimming for the right reasons," she said. "No more trying to impress coaches and stuff like that -- just trying to go fast."
To Patriots coach Kevin Zakrzewski, entering Pelka in the fly as opposed to the 500 involved some serious risk vs. reward deliberations.
"The way the 500 looks, we were pretty confident that could be a top-six event for her," he said. "In the fly, it's a lot less clear. I think if she has the swim of a lifetime in finals, she could be as high as top three."
Pelka will have plenty of company on deck at state.
Patriots junior Ashley Carollo won the 100 backstroke in a pool-record time of 55.41 and also earned a state spot with a third-place finish in the 100 free (52.50). Senior Eva Holsen also advanced in the 500 free (5:07.90) as Stevenson took second in the team standings with 244 points.
Stevenson had the winning 200 free relay of Carollo, Pelka, Claire Huang and Lucy Stevens (1:36.97) and got through in the 400 with Pelka, Carollo, Maddy O'Donnell and Huang (second in 3:31.23).
The challenge for Stevenson was following the example of Pelka and Carollo. As Zakrzewski put it, "Our main weakness this year was just experience."
Pelka certainly like what she saw.
"I think our whole team really brought it today," she said. "Everybody just went out and attacked their races. I'm super proud of everybody."
Lake Zurich junior Sophia Goushchina -- well known to the Stevenson girls, as most of them compete outside of the high school season on the same club -- repeated as a state qualifier, this time advancing in both the 100 free (52.11) and the 100 back (57.21), both times in second place.
Palatine had a bunch of lifetime-best efforts and will be represented at state by senior exchange student Kate Burianova, who won the 50 free in 24.11, and sophomore Jane Smith, who made it in both the 200 free (1:53.14) and 500 free (5:01.36).
The day got off to a great start for the Pirates, as freshman Anais Gonzalez Posso won with 429.45. Seventh-place finisher Sydney Aikman, a sophomore, also has a chance to advance with an at-large berth after scoring 389.15. Diving coach Curt Bendell said some late-season adjustments helped Gonzalez Posso thrive.
"She did a very nice job these last couple of week, just cleaning up a few things," he said.
Fremd had more than its fair share of sectional heartache, with near-misses to state in the freestyle relays and a couple of individual disappointments.
But there was plenty to celebrate, too, starting with the state-qualifying medley relay of sophomore Sophia Kuehn, senior Rebecca Ballo, junior Kristina Buzuloiu and senior Emily Bolger (second in 1:48.16).
Bolger earned another weekend of individual racing in the 100 free (fourth in 52.94).
Ballo showed her mettle as a big-meet swimmer once again in qualifying to the state meet for a fourth straight year in the 100 breaststroke. She finished in 1:06.19, lopping off more than two seconds from her previous best this season.
"For me, I feel like there's always a mental game that goes with it," Ballo said. "It can be discouraging if the times aren't where you'd like them to be. But I've figured out ways to keep my confidence up."
Senior Carly Goodsite finished second diving and is assured of at-large berth to state after scoring 419.05, which helped Fremd take third place in the team race at 167.5.
Hersey's best hope for state is sophomore diver Amelie Smithson, who place fourth (390.65). Huskies senior Olivia Kusio wrapped up a distinguished prep career by placing fifth in the 100 free (53.17) and fourth in the 100 breast (1:06.89).
Buffalo Grove got a great effort from sophomore diver Vivian Wilson (third, 403.95), and Prospect junior Madison Malone (389.70) also could advance.
The state meet swimming preliminaries begin at 3:30 p.m. Friday at New Trier, with Saturday's finals session for both swimming and diving scheduled for 11 a.m.
Downers Grove North sectional: Schaumburg sophomore Hana Mollin earned her second straight trip to the state meet by winning the 200 IM in 2:06.92.
That effort helped the Saxons to sixth place in the team standings with 48 points, just ahead of Conant (44). Top finishers for the Cougars included Megumi Komoto in the 100 fly (fourth, 59.03) and Aly Wooley in the 50 free (tied for sixth, 25.41).
Glenbard West was the team champion with 94 points, and Downers Grove North and Lake Park tied for second at 81.