Girls swimming and diving: Scouting the 2021 season in Lake County

  • Stevenson's Claudia Rzeznik is one of many talented swimmers and divers returning for the Patriots this season.

    Stevenson's Claudia Rzeznik is one of many talented swimmers and divers returning for the Patriots this season. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

By Mike Miazga
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 8/20/2021 12:51 PM

While the Stevenson girls swimming team brings the heat when it comes to talent, coach Ayrton Kasemets said that's not the team's No. 1 strength.

"Our No. 1 strength is our energy, and this starts from our seniors and captains," the coach said. "The energy and volume at practice is unmatched. If this team brings the energy they are practicing each day to their meets, they are unbeatable. Our goal is to be the loudest team, because, oftentimes, the loudest teams are the fastest teams."


The Patriots are coming off a 2020 COVID-19-altered landscape where they won the North Suburban Conference meet and overall titles, plus finished second at the sectional level.

Back for Stevenson are all-American senior diver Shreeya Sinha, senior Claudia Rzeznik (fly) and junior Abby Collins (100). All three won NSC titles in their respective events. Junior Milena Busma won the fly title at the sectional.

Sinha combines with Nora Kowalski to give Stevenson a critical 1-2 punch on the diving board. "Both are seniors and had amazing junior years and offseasons," Kasemets said. "They push each other really well. They are a big 1-2 punch in any order for us when it comes to any meet."

Also back are Katie Makarska and Jenn Chen. Kasemets also is high on his relay makeup. "All three relays should be super strong this year due to our impeccable depth and unmatched energy," Kasemets added.

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Libertyville finished fourth in the NSC and had numerous postseason successes. "It is going to be an amazing season," Wildcats coach Mike Cunningham said. "This team is excited to be back. It is a great group of women. They work hard to support each other and want to be the best team that they can be. Their strengths are their support and dedication to each other and the team."

Mundelein was fourth at its sectional and returns junior standout Riley Routledge, whose 100 breaststroke effort there would have earned her a state berth if there was a state meet. She was also third in the IM and 100 at the sectional level. She took fifth in the IM and breast at the NSC meet. Senior Laruen Geary also is back for the Mustangs and has postseason experience.

"We are a very young team with more than half the squad being underclassmen," Mundelein coach Rahul Sethna said. "Couple that with about two-thirds of our team never swimming at a varsity invite before or knowing what a 'real' season is like -- we are young. The ladies work very hard and want to improve. The key for us is can we 'get old quick' and differentiate between club and high school swimming, and develop those bonds and chemistry needed in high school. Coming off a shortened and modified competition season, we need to relearn how to compete at invites, swim tired and all the other things that are part of high school swimming."

Freshmen Ruby and Casimira Puerzer, Karina Schwalbach and Gwen Alviar are new to the Mundelein varsity.

Elsewhere, Antioch coach Jim Peterson has high hopes for freshman Sydney Vega, who will work back and IM. She played in the Top 20 in the 100- and 200-meter back during the Wisconsin summer long-course season, and also was Top 20 in the 100-yard and 200-yard back at Wisconsin short-course state this past winter.

"Sydney's goals for the high school season are lofty, but with hard work and dedication, completely obtainable," said Peterson, who noted Antioch has its largest freshman swim team in quite some time.

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