Girls swimming and diving: Athletes are all set for sectional Saturday
With sectional Saturday finally here, girls swimming and diving teams across the suburbs have been dialing back yardage and focusing on other aspects of their skill set, which is generally referred to as tapering. But tapering is mental as much as a physical task, coaches and athletes say.
West Chicago junior Ashley Sego is tapering for the St. Charles North sectional, where she will swim the 200-yard individual medley and the 100 breaststroke.
"Tapering is a way at first to slow down the amount of yardage, but keeping up your endurance and speed," she said. "For sure, you have to be there mentally, because if you're not in the right space mentally, you're going to get in your head and mess up your taper."
Naperville North will travel to Metea Valley for its sectional, and senior Holly Wessel will race the 200 and 500 freestyle, started tapering this week.
"As much as we're training and when taper comes and we're winding down, it's how you think about it," she said. "If you go in and say you're going to do great, it's likely to come out that way."
Added her coach, Andy McWhirter: "Morning weights, afternoon practice, yardage, you can post some pretty good times. And then you take that load off and you're able to go really fast. You have the opportunity to get your energy back."
Not every coach calls it tapering. For example, Barrington coach Alex Mikolajewski said, "I try to give them more of a rhythm. They have to feel this is a similar routine to where I went my best time."
Barrington will travel to the Stevenson sectional, with Buffalo Grove among the top teams. Vernon Hills swimmers will not participate due to coaching staff COVID-19 diagnoses, though two divers will participate.
First-year Benet coach Sue Welker refers to the notion of tapering by a different term -- PPP, which stands for Preparing for Peak Performance. She focuses on a wide variety of things, including yoga, breathing techniques, diet, sleep quality and stretching and lengthening, in addition to decreasing yardage. Benet will join Naperville North and Central and Neuqua Valley at the Metea Valley sectional.
In other sectional action, Schaumburg and top juniors Nina Mollin, Maddie Dohrn and Danielle Alley will travel to Elk Grove and take on the likes of Prospect and Fremd. Downers Grove North and South will try their hand at the Hinsdale Central sectional, with powers like the host Red Devils and Lyons.
Queens of the conferences:
The dress rehearsal for sectionals was last weekend's conference meets, which featured exciting races and team finishes.
Downers South once again won the West Suburban Gold title, with 252 points, beating Leyden handily, which had 168. The Mustangs won every event except the 500 freestyle and diving on their way to what coach Paul Krick estimated was at least its eighth championship in a row.
The most interesting race that day might have been the 200 individual medley, where Hailey Welp broke the conference record in Heat 1. But senior Madeline Padavic bested her in Heat 2 with a time of 2:09.33. Thus, Welp held the record for about 2 minutes.
Senior Audrey Mahoney broke the school and conference records in the 50 freestyle with a time of 23.85 seconds.
"I went into the conference meet with the 50 free knowing I had broken the school record my sophomore year," she said. "When I saw I broke my conference record and my school record again, it was amazing."
Vernon Hills won the Central Suburban League North Division in virtual fashion, winning with 313 points, besting runner-up Deerfield with 247. The Cougars went 1-2-3 in diving, with Alyse Lichtenstein winning it all with 446.55 points, while Izzy Ramos won three events -- the 100 breaststroke (1:07.18), the 100 freestyle (54.45) and the 200 individual medley (2:09.62). Senior Casey Craffey also won two events.
Despite swimming the meet virtually, i.e., at their own pool, like the other teams in the conference except Deerfield and Highland Park, Block said "our girls race each other in practice. You can put your best swimmer in more events, so it was a different dynamic."
Barrington, the winner of the Mid-Suburban League West, faced off against Hersey, the East Division champion in a dual meet, like the rest of the respective conference place-finishers. Once the times were aggregated, the Fillies prevailed with 197 points, 20 ahead of runner-up Hersey. Alyssa Schwengel won the 50 freestyle (24.13) and the 100 freestyle (52.09).
"We did what we needed to do to get the job done," Mikolajewski said. "They understand what they have to do, and winning holds a high value to them."
Other notable finishes included West Chicago, which slipped past the SabreHawks, the Bartlett-Streamwood co-op team 321-317. Stevenson easily took first in the North Suburban Conference with 309 points, well ahead of runner-up Lake Forest, with 248. Hinsdale Central did likewise in the West Suburban Silver with 230 points, besting Downers North with 156.
As expected, Neuqua Valley won the DuPage Valley, with 399 points, but got pushed by McWhirter's Naperville North crew with 344. Benet had a solid fourth-place finish in the Metro Catholic Aquatic Conference with 176 points. The DuKane Conference didn't keep team scores, but St. Charles North and St. Charles East each won four Flight A varsity events.