Girls swimming and diving: Carollo, Goushchina stand tall on state stage
Stevenson is, well, Stevenson.
The Patriots had their usual strong showing at the IHSA state girls swimming and diving meet Saturday at Evanston, finishing in 20th place as a team.
But the highlight of the meet for the Patriots was senior Tulane-bound Ashley Carollo going out in style, tying for second place in the championship heat of the 100-yard backstroke in a time of 55.72.
Carollo tied with Lake Zurich senior Sophia Goushchina, who became the highest finisher in a state meet for the Bears.
Goushchina also took home hardware in the 100 freestyle, where she finished ninth in the consolation finals (51.79).
"It wasn't what I expected but I'm happy with second," Carrollo said. "It's just exciting and such an awesome atmosphere (at state). I'm looking forward to a fresh start and see what I can do (for Tulane)."
A four-time state qualifier, Carollo also opened the day by swimming anchor on the 200 medley relay, where she paired with sophomore Jessica Nyborg, freshman Claudia Rzeznik and junior Maddy O'Donnell to touch in 1:46.95. to earn an 11th-place finish.
"We did some fun things this season, like wearing camouflage and having our own dog tags. I was 'Ash Dog,' " Carollo said.
At Vernon Hills, the culture over the last couple of years has swung noticeably to the point where the program is turning some heads at the state meet.
They're as goofy as ever, from the continuous banter to playing games during downtime to having dance-offs shortly before meets.
But that's the main goal to keep in mind -- have fun and do your best.
And junior diver Ally Landis has been an instrumental part of that transformation.
"Our program is definitely on the rise," said sectional diving coach of the year Nathan Lightman. "And Ally has been a big part of that. We didn't have any expectations the last couple of years, but now we're showing for a smaller school that we can compete with the bigger ones."
Landis, after finishing third last year in 1-meter diving, shocked even herself by finishing second. She amassed a score of 418.10 to become the highest girls finisher in school history.
"It was kind of stressful and a little rocky in the beginning, but I pulled myself together," said Landis, who was seeded 17th coming into the meet and made a major jump to sixth after prelims Friday.
"I just try to put the last dive in the past and focus on the present. But it's amazing how overwhelming the support we've had. We're having fun but starting to see results."
Scary because Landis' effort helped lead the Cougars to a 12th-place state finish with 28 points, their best ever.
"It's been a fun ascent. They just love to race," Cougars first-year head coach AJ Block said. "Almost all of our swimmers here went four events."
Block was especially pleased with the efforts of sophomore Casey Craffey, who earned a 12th-place medal in the 500 freestyle, where she touched in 5:06.64. Only about 5 minutes later, she was swimming anchor for the 11th-place 200 free relay, where she paired with senior Ellie Long, sophomore Anna Long and senior Drew Petereit to finish in 1:36.59.
"She had a good 500 time in prelims and was, I think, a little tired today," Block said. "But that's a testament to her character and the heart she has swimming two events almost back-to-back."
Tulane-bound senior Petereit capped off a nice career as well for the Central Suburban North school, finishing with an 11th-place medal in the 50 freestyle (24.29).
The future is bright for the Cougars with the likes of junior Alexandra Skatchkov, who was 10th in the 100 butterfly (56.00).
In the final event of the meet, the 400 relay team of Petereit, Ellie Long, Craffey and Anna Long earned a 10th-place medal (3:30.97).
Libertyville junior Emma Gleason took home two medals. First, she finished 12th in the 200 freestyle after touching in 1:55.68. Then, in her main event, Gleason took home a fifth-place medal by swimming 55.70 in the 100 butterfly.
Neuqua Valley unseated defending state champion Rosary, scoring 185 points to Rosary's 169. New Trier (125), St. Charles North (100) and Lyons (97) rounded out the top five with Barrington (94) finishing sixth.
The Fillies' best finishes came from senior Bridget O'Leary (2nd in the 200 free) and sophomore Maggie Graves (3rd in the 500 free).
Juniors Mackenzie Strong of Mundelein and Lake Forest's Julia Tanna did well in their third trip to state in as many years competing in the Athletes with Disabilities events.
Strong took second in the 200 freestyle (2:36.42) and 100 freestyle (1:11.63) and third in both the 50 free (32.55) and 100 breaststroke (1:39.10).
Tanna won the 100 breaststroke (2:09.39) and finished fifth in the 200 freestyle (3:19.75), 50 freestyle (43.99) and 100 freestyle (1:35.18).