2019 Illinois Girls HS State Finals: Neuqua Valley Defends Historic State Title

2019 IHSA Girls State Championship

The tight battle for the state title fired off in Winnetka as the host New Trier aimed to dethrone 2018 state champion Neuqua Valley. After twelve events and five new state records, it was the Neuqua Valley girls who successfully defended their state championship title.

Finals Highlights:

The valiant New Trier high school started the meet off re-breaking their day-old state record in the 200 medley relay. The quartet of Carly Novelline (24.89) Kaelyn Gridley (27.67), Greta Pelzak (24.71), and Joelle Ohr (23.16) stopped the clock at 1:40.43, slicing half a second off their prelims record of 1:40.98.

In the Athletes with Disabilities category, Crystal Lake junior Makayla Neitzel swept all four Class B races for the second year in a year. She kicked things off with her winning times in the 200 free (2:01.66) and 50 free (25.68). Then, Nietzel went on to break her own Class B state records in the 100 free (55.05) and 100 breast (1:14.74).

Heading into the mid-distance free events, Neuqua Valley’s Rachel Stege was in a class of her own. She first won the 200 free with a 1:46.66, slicing just 0.03 seconds off Georgia White‘s 2016 state record of 1:46.69. Then, after breaking her own state record in prelims, Stege defended her 2018 title in the 500 free with a 4:45.13. Taking state runner-up in both event behind Stege was Maine South’s Annika Wagner (1:47.16/4:45.13).

After placing third in the event last year, Lyons senior Cal Dunn crushed the 200 IM and won her first state title with a time of 2:01.10, blowing out the field by more than a second.

Future Texas Longhorn Oswego East senior Grace Cooper was the sprint queen of Illinois for the second-time in a row as she swept both the 50 free (22.39) and 100 free (49.29). New Trier’s Carly Novelline tried taking down Cooper in the finishing strokes of the 100 free, yet settled for a tight second place with a 49.38.

However, Novelline did not walk away empty-handed as she added a second state title to her collection with her 100 back winning time of 53.92. Taking second place in the event was the 2018 state champion Megan Armstrong of St. Charles North (54.79).

Neuqua Valley’s Jane Riehs won the 1-meter boards by 16 points over the rest of the top three. Her and teammate Elle Jacobson (7th) were able to contribute 26 points towards Neuqua Valley’s score.

In her only individual event after taking 2 runner-up finishes in 2018, Metea Valley’s McKenna Stone topped the 100 fly by over a second with a 53.38.

Stone was also a crucial member of Metea’s 200 free relay, which got second place (1:32.93) thanks to her 22.04 anchor split. Winning the relay with a new state record was the Neuqua Valley squad of Megan Ciezczak (23.72), Maxine Parkinson (23.47), Stege (22.94), and Tiffanie Ruan (22.54). Oswego East took a narrow third place finish at 1:33.19, featuring Cooper’s 21.84 anchor split.

At this point in the meet, Neuqua Valley was on track to sealing their second-straight state title. Yet New Trier sophomore Gridley gave the home crowd one last hurrah in the 100 breast by defending her title with a 1:01.53.

Heading into the final event, it was Neuqua Valley (Ciezczak, Stege, Harder, Ruan) who topped the 400 free relay with a 3:23.98. Anchoring the runner-up Oswego East relay (3:24.19) was Cooper with the fastest split of the event at 48.39.

Top Six Teams:

Rank Team Points
1 Neuqua Valley 183
2 New Trier 169
3 Oswego East 133
4 Lyons 92
5 Metea Valley 79
6 Rosary 64


Leave a Reply

Notify of
newest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
1 year ago

The fast that 23.39 took the 50 fr in this very competitive swimming state puts some perspective on how fast Smoliga’s 21.99 was. I know a couple of other HS girls have now gone sub 22, but 21.99 is still smokin’ fast!

Reply to  NoFlyKick
1 year ago

22.39 not 23.39

Reply to  NoFlyKick
1 year ago

Cooper was 21.8 anchoring the 200 free relay. Not the same as a flat start, but still awfully impressive

Brien Gerber
1 year ago

Back to back! Way to go NVHS ladies!

1 year ago

Plus they swim in a 6 lane bath tub. The IL champs are one of the two most exciting meets I’ve ever attended.

Reply to  JimSwim22
1 year ago

You must be thinking of Evanston, where the boy’s championship is held. This event was at New Trier, where the pool, while still old, is 25y x 8 lanes.

About Nick Pecoraro

Nick Pecoraro

Nick Pecoraro started swimming at age 11, instantly becoming drawn to the sport. He was a breaststroker and IMer when competing. After joining SwimSwam, the site has become an outlet for him to research and learn about competitive swimming and experience the sport through a new lenses. He graduated in …

Read More »