Girls swimming: Downers South's Padavic makes dream reality

  • Barrington's Lilian Reader swims the 200-yard individual medley during the state swimming preliminaries last year at New Trier High School.

      Barrington's Lilian Reader swims the 200-yard individual medley during the state swimming preliminaries last year at New Trier High School. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

By Gregg Voss
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 9/25/2020 11:48 AM

It's been quite a journey for Downers Grove South senior Madeline Padavic in her commitment to Miami of Ohio.

By her own admission, she "wasn't a standout swimmer as a sophomore," but Miami was her dream school when she visited back in 2018.


She wanted to make her goal of swimming for the RedHawks a reality. So she got in contact with the team's coaching staff, which challenged her with goal times to hit as her junior year unfolded.

Padavic hit them, including an 11th-place finish at state in the 100-yard butterfly (56.78 seconds).

"I think after my sectional and state performances, I talked to them into club season in winter and spring," Padavic said. "When I dropped more times, it was really just staying in contact with them and keeping them up to date."

COVID-19 might have been a stumbling block, but she was fortunate to have a meet where she tapered before the shutdown, which helped both her times and her case for why she belonged at Miami.

She was a tad nervous when COVID-19 began because it didn't allow her to go on an official visit, but she was in good shape because she had done the hard work on keeping the coaching staff apprised of her times.

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Here's the funny part: "When I told other colleges I had chosen Miami, other coaches were putting out other offers," she said.

There's no state this season, though it's looking like there will be a sectional competition on Oct. 24, though details are sporadic right now. It's disappointing for Padavic not to have a state meet to look forward to, but such is life.

"Honestly, I'm grateful to have a season," she said. "It kind of gets me a little frustrated, but everyone is in the same boat. I had my breakout season last season."

Padavic is part of another loaded Mustangs team featuring junior Audrey Mahoney, who coach Paul Krick said "is swimming really fast in the 50 and 100 (freestyle)," and sophomore breaststroker Andrea Paradis. The highlight of the season so far has been a 110-29 defeat of rival Hinsdale South Sept. 3.

New coach at Downers North

Over on the north side of Downers Grove, boys coach Adam Bruesch has stepped in for longtime girls coach Judy Busse, and is leading a crew of 16 varsity swimmers, 24 junior varsity swimmers and 10 divers.


Bruesch is leaning heavily on the experience of assistant coaches Jennifer Heyer-Olson and Elisabeth Stanley, who were assistants under Busse.

"(They) are stepping up in a big way," Bruesch said of his assistants. "They have essentially been the ones responsible for the training and competition side of things since the transition. I am really handling more of the administrative side of coaching."

Heyer-Olson said things are going, well, swimmingly, considering the coaching transition and the limitations posed by COVID-19.

"The whole team has come together in a unique season to do their absolute best with every opportunity they have been given," she said. "Team spirit is great, work ethic is getting better every day, and we have improved steadily in our meet performances."

Added Bruesch: "Jennifer and Elisabeth are really the ones who have done the counseling, which really entails being responsible in and out of the pool, and reinforcing the idea that our season is what we make of it."

Reader self-motivated

Like most other athletes around the Chicago suburbs, COVID-19 put a crimp in training for Barrington junior Lilian Reader.

"We got cut out of the pool in mid-March and didn't get back until early July," she said. "I have swam since I was 7 or 8, and it was the longest break I've had in years. I was definitely trying to stay in the same mindset and just training harder when we got back."

It paid off. Reader won the 100 butterfly (59.56) and took second in the 100 breaststroke (1:01.74) and 100 individual medley (2:08.76) in an 89-54 Mid-Suburban League victory over Schaumburg Aug. 29 to kick off the protracted season.

She only got better. Against a tough Fremd squad Sept. 5, she won the 200 freestyle (1:54.66), 100 butterfly (59.84) and the 500 freestyle (4:57.91).

That focus on self-motivation is going to be key the rest of the campaign, she said, what with no state meet.

"This year it's more individually goal-based. You're still trying to get better and it motivates your training and motivates your team training."

She's even taken the radically different dual-meet format in stride.

"I got used to it faster than I thought I would," she said. "There are no spectators, so you're missing those extra people cheering us on. But it brings our team together. If we're not swimming, you're timing people, cheering people or on the deck."

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