Girls swimming: Buffalo Grove's journey has been successful thus far
Buffalo Grove girls swimming and diving coach Michael McPartlin is fond of saying every race is a journey.
That's the rationale he uses when he allows his charges to experiment with races outside of their comfort zone, in the strangest of seasons, thanks to COVID-19.
The approach is paying off. His team is 5-1 in dual meets, having lost only to Mid-Suburban League East rival Hersey 82-62 on Sept. 17.
"I'm a distance swimmer and I swim the 200 (yard freestyle) and the 500," senior captain Sydney Logan said. "I haven't been much of a sprinter. I've been trying to cut time on my 50 and 100 free. I've had a little fun with that."
And how. Against Wheeling Sept. 26, she won both the 50 free (27.17 seconds) and 100 free (57.35).
Normally, sophomore Gianna Gagliano would race the 200 individual medley, but she's been pressed into service in the 100 butterfly and the 100 breaststroke. Against Hersey, she won the latter event in 1:07.49, just edging the Huskies' Natalia Plewa (1:07.63).
Senior Stefanie Surdyka, a state qualifier in four events a year ago, swam the 100 backstroke against Hersey, an off-event for her, and took fourth in 1:01.37. Since there are no relays this season, that presents a physical challenge for her and her teammates.
"Especially since the meets are shorter, it's hard to get your heart rate down for the next event," she said.
But like every team, there is a bit of a downside. Senior captain Emilia Jedryka, a state qualifier in two relays last year, isn't going to be able to experience state again, though the Bison will participate in a sectional event Oct. 24 at Stevenson.
The team will also face Fremd, runner-up in the MSL West, on the weekend of Oct. 16 as part of the conference meet schedule, where like place finishers of each division face off against each other.
We-Go on cruise control:
West Chicago is undefeated in the Upstate Eight at 5-0. Not bad for a team that lost most of its firepower to graduation. What's been the difference? Attitude.
"Some kids could look at this and say, 'We don't have a state series or relays, let's call it a day,' " coach Nick Parry said. "But they aren't doing that."
There's plenty of talent that has stepped up to fill the void for the Wildcats. Take junior Ashley Sego, who has "upped her game" despite having a terrific season as a sophomore, alongside her graduated sister Kelly, who is swimming at Missouri State.
"She is swimming faster in season than at any point in time last year," Parry said.
Then there's sophomore Cami Mayo, of whom Parry said, "is more comfortable with everything. She's probably been one of our top performers as well."
Despite the complexities brought on by COVID-19, Sego said the team has adjusted accordingly, another reason for the undefeated mark. Things will get tougher, of course, as We-Go hosts the Upstate Eight Conference meet Oct. 17 and then will travel to a sectional meet at St. Charles North a week later.
"We've been pushing each other even harder, even in these times, and were continuing to succeed in the pool and on dryland," Sego said.
Cardboard cutouts for Mundelein
Perhaps the feel-good story of this season comes from Mundelein, where parents are "attending" the Mustangs' home meets, with their very own cardboard cutouts in the bleachers, akin to those in Major League Baseball.
"One of our moms came up with that, and I thought it was genius," said senior Jennifer Lopez. "We thought having heads there of the people at home cheering us on creates a fun environment."
Adry Kasemets, a Louisville recruit, went so far as to put a cardboard cutout of her dog in the bleachers, along with her brother -- Stevenson coach Ayrton Kasemets, who will get to see himself when the teams face off for Senior Night Oct. 10. That meet will feature the seniors only, because their actual parents will be in attendance.
Like a lot of other teams, the Mustangs (2-3) are working through the challenges of exclusively dual meets and the configuration of swimmers in the pool due to COVID-19 restrictions. Mundelein takes up four consecutive lanes, while the opponent occupies the other four.
"It's harder to race your competition because they're not next to you," said senior Lauren Carlson, whose mom was the brainchild behind the cardboard cutouts. "I have to gauge three lanes over."
But coach Rahul Sethna said his charges have a newfound love for the sport.
"Especially in our state, swimming is a year-round thing," he said. "Once it got yanked from them and the future was uncertain, they realized, I like being in the water. I love the sport."