Girls swimming and diving: Scouting the Northwest suburbs
"I feel like last year was a blur," said Palatine girls swimming and diving coach Katie Kupka, echoing the sentiments of many coaches and athletes about last season's COVID-interrupted campaign.
Now most are hopeful for a somewhat "back to normal" push with a complete state series, and the Pirates will have a "very young team with only one senior returning, that being Veronika Drab, a standout in the fly and sprint free.
Other Northwest suburbs schools looking forward with great anticipation to the season ahead include Barrington, which won the Mid-Suburban League conference and the Stevenson sectional last year. The Fillies will be paced by junior Jenna Kerr (1st at sectional in the 200 free), senior Emily Bucaro (2nd in sectional 200 free), and senior Lillian Reader, who set the pool record in winning the 500 free at Stevenson).
Conant will return to the pool with Kayla Puchitkanont, a sophomore, leading the way. Puchitkanont finished third in the breaststroke at last year's sectional meet. "Our athletes have been positive and are working hard," said coach Justin Bickus. "I'm looking forward to seeing what our younger swimmers and first-time varsity swimmers can do."
Fremd will be paced by captains Kylie Booker, Maggie Hewson, Katie Carlisle, Emily Rothmeyer, and Sarah Bels, who coach Andrew Kittrell says have been "instrumental in helping our younger athletes transition to the competitive varsity level." Adds Kittrell: "We are absolutely thrilled to be back as a team, and I look forward to our young squad showing what they can do in the next few weeks.
Schaumburg includes athletes Nina Mollin and Madi Dohrn retuning to the pool for their senior seasons. Dohrn was seventh at state in the 100 backstroke in her sophomore year and fourth last year, and will be going to Iowa State to swim.
Buffalo Grove coach Michael McPartlin says that the Bison are "really looking forward to having a state meet this year and having a few qualifiers make it out of the sectional in relays and individual events." Emilia Jedryka will be a senior for BG and is a returning state qualifier, and school record-holder in multiple events. Her specialties are backstroke and freestyle.
Elk Grove coach Dave Toler said that because of the difficulties of last year's shortened season, "the girls responded to working for speed immediately and pursuing it at every race." Toler added that this year seniors Michelle Cobirzan, Ava Hennig, Natalia Kosciarz, Kylie Rittle and Anja Restak "give us good balance and point scoring."
Hersey finished as Mid-Suburban League East champions last year for the sixth consecutive season. The Huskies will be led by senior Ally Blumenfeld, an All-American in diving and the MSL dive champ, and school record holder in 6 of 11 dives. "Ally has added a few dives to increase her degree of difficulty," said coach Dick Mortensen, "and expects to make finals at state."
Alfonso Lopez, head coach of Prospect, says that his team is "young, but will be anchored by a very solid junior and senior class that has lots of varsity experience." Returning to lead the Knights' charge will be four-year varsity swimmers Grace Dembowski, Faith O'Grady, Joli Babjak, Bella Kowalczyk, and Gurleen Virk.
Cassidy Pardini, a junior, will return for Rolling Meadows as its top sprinter, as will diver Caitlin Wadawski, who broke a 41-year old school record for the Mustangs at sectionals. "I'm looking forward to see what (Wadawski) can do in her second season," said coach Monika Chiappetta, "and also looking forward to what our other returning varsity girls (including Elise Anfenson, Moeka Hara, Rachel Malik, Riley Davidson, Angie Tisbert, Audrey Parker, Vivian Weber and Victoria Wiltse) will be able to accomplish."
The Wheeling girls swim and dive team will be making it a priority to "work on individual goals and times," according to coach Katlyn Tomasetti, and in addition Tomasetti says that the entire team will be looking forward to the Wildcats' Retro Relay Invite, which will make a comeback this season in mid-October. Key returnees for Wheeling are five seniors: Clare Prilutsky, Allison Wong, Sydney Kyvik, Francesca Yoon, and Darya Tsialehina.
St. Viator coach Mike Miklius says he will be looking forward to "having two new senior captains -- Julia Benkendorf and Mary Stauder -- and also a strong class of incoming freshmen. We're excited to have relays, to be doing invites, and to have spectators back in the building." Miklius will also be counting on sophomore Grace Stauder this year.
Maine East coach Peter Przekota noted that despite "only competing in one live meet last year and the rest virtual, our team had a great season. We were able to break one varsity record and six freshman records, four individual and two relay." Competing for the Blue Demons in fall 2021 will be senior captains Rianca Argenal and Jessica Domain along with junior Irene Lazanyl and sophomores Reisha Argenal and Maya Elsayed.
Maine South will head to the pool with junior Chloe Bai, a 3-year returning varsity swimmer, leading the way. "We have a younger team this year," said coach Don Kura, "and we're looking to build and improve was the season progresses so that we're doing our very best swimming and diving from mid-October to mid-November." Included on the roster will be stellar sophomores Leah Rummelhoff and Sophia Szymanski.
Leyden's recent successes include a new facility, and hosting the West Suburban Gold Conference championship and a sectional meet. The Eagles will hope to build on that this year behind senior Caroline Gorski, who holds the school 100 freestyle record, and sophomore Ashley Rozycki, a state qualifier as a freshman in the 500 free. "Sectionals is always the best meet for us," said coach Chris Cook. "It's the meet that all the hard work is on display and the best times are achieved."