Girls state swimming and diving: Metea Valley's Stone keeps it low-key
When it comes to the IHSA girls swimming and diving meet, the key for Metea Valley junior McKenna Stone is to manage expectations.
In other words avoid them and instead focus on racing against the clock.
That strategy paid dividends in Friday's preliminaries at New Trier. She led from wire to wire in the 100-yard butterfly, winning in 53.27 seconds, besting runner-up Paige Collins, a Naperville Central junior.
Guess what? She thinks she can correct her mistakes in Saturday's final and race even faster. Against the clock, of course.
"The beauty of it is, it wasn't a perfect swim, and I have another day tomorrow," she said with a laugh, adding that her preparation strategy for the less-than-24-hour turnaround is simple. "I talk, so I don't think about it a lot. If I sit in silence for too long, I get inside my own head."
Stone also helped the Mustangs qualify for Saturday's finals in all three relays -- the 200 medley relay, 200 freestyle relay and the 400 freestyle relay. Senior Aimee Patterson also qualified in the 50 freestyle in 23.73.
Neuqua Valley had an equally strong day, qualifying in all three relays and eight individual events. Leading the way was junior Rachel Stege, who won the 200 freestyle in 1:47.20 -- over two seconds faster than her seed time -- and then the 500 freestyle, which she won by breaking her own state record with a 4:44.87 swim.
Her reaction to all that? Ho-hum.
"I don't think about my races at all," Stege said with a smile. "I know that I'm prepared for them, so I swim how I usually do and see what happens."
Senior Maxine Parkinson took third in the 200 individual medley in 2:03.75, slipping past Naperville Central's Collins. Junior Tiffanie Ruan did likewise in the 100 freestyle, finishing third in 50.65. Junior diver Jane Riehs was second in that competition with 314.80 points, and freshman teammate Elle Jacobson was fourth with 311.55.
Ruan, Parkinson, Stege and junior Megan Ciezczak combined to win the 200 freestyle relay in 1:33.07, while Ciezczak, senior Isabella Harder, Steve and Ruan took fourth in the 400 freestyle relay in 3:26.17.
In addition to her individual qualifiers, Collins led a solid Naperville Central effort, which qualified its 200 medley relay and its 200 freestyle relay.
"It's kind of crazy," Collins said. "Last year I didn't even make finals, and now this is the first time I've had a good swim at state, so I'm really happy with that."
Downers Grove South used the same four swimmers -- junior Madeline Padavic, senior Melanie Scheiblein, senior Jorie Selig and sophomore Audrey Mahoney to qualify in the 200 medley relay and the 200 freestyle relay. They narrowly missed advancing in the 400 freestyle relay, taking 13th in 3:32.63. The top 12 finishers qualify for Saturday's finals, which begin at 11 a.m.
"I think our main thing was to get in in our 200 relays," Mahoney said. "The 400 relay was kind of just, if we make it, it would be amazing for us. We are more excited for the 200 relays."
Padavic also qualified in the 100 butterfly by finishing 10th in 56.19.
West Chicago was led by the Sego sisters, senior Kelly and sophomore Ashley. The former took ninth in both the 100 backstroke and 200 individual medley. The latter nearly made it in the 100 breaststroke, finishing 14th in 1:04.45.
Naperville North got a qualifier from junior Holly Wessel, who took 11th in the 500 freestyle in 4:58.67, Downers North senior breaststroker Libby Benge also moved on by finishing eighth in that event in 1:04.10.
Saturday will be Benge's last race. She is not planning on swimming in college.
"Swimming has been a part of my life since I was 7 years old, probably," Benge said. "I love swimming, and I've decided not to swim in college, but I'm excited to go out tomorrow."
Hinsdale Central qualified in all three relays and three individual events.