Karl Ortegon is a senior at Evanston Township High School, and couldn’t help but write up a huge preview of the Illinois High School State Championship meet.
It’ll be hard to follow up the 2013 state meet that was dominated by former Glenbrook South HS star Olivia Smoliga, where she was the first female swimmer under 22 seconds in the 50 yard freestyle (21.99) in a high school meet and blew away the 100 yard backstroke field by almost three seconds (51.43) to break the national public high school record in both events. To put her backstroke time in perspective, she would have finished 4th in the state in the 100 yard FREESTYLE with that time. Smoliga is now a freshman at the University of Georgia, though. Other notable swimmers who have gone off to swim in college include former Loyola Academy sprinter Evan Swenson, who was 3rd in the 50 and won the 100 yard breaststroke, and former Neuqua Valley star Gia Dalesandro, who won both the 200 yard individual medley and the 100 yard fly. Swenson is competing at USC and Dalesandro at Indiana, however the talent still runs thick in Illinois. Next Friday and Saturday, one of the fastest state meets in the country will once again electrify a packed New Trier natatorium, as state records are on the line and juggernaut teams will be vying for the state title.
TOP THREE BREAKDOWN
NEW TRIER: Going into the Sectional meets, where teams qualify for State, it looked like New Trier would have pretty good chance to complete the four-peat after winning the last three state titles. A team with arguably the most depth in the state, the Trevians have very good relays and among junior Nicole Retondo, seniors Amelia Girgenti, Kara Lucenti, and Christine Ryan and star freshman Ingrid Wall, the individual scoring was expected to prove far too strong for any other team to overcome. New Trier usually qualifies for state with the majority of their team unsuited (this goes for the boys side as well) and this year, not wearing suits hurt the Trevians’ chances at State. A few swimmers just missed their cuts for NT, but an unsuited Retondo unexpectedly missed the state cut in the 200 IM. She was 6th last year at state, looking to return to the top 6 for at least 9 points. Nevertheless, the Trevians are expected to put up big swims; Wall has already been 1:03.89 breaststroke and 23.81 this season untapered, Lucenti 2:06.19 in the IM and Ryan 5:02.23 in the 500. NT also has two great divers in seniors Juliette Corboy and Tally Ford. Corboy is the top returning diver in the state from last year.
FENWICK: Looking to avenge last year’s second place finish are the Friars of Fenwick High School. Despite losing a very good breaststroker/sprinter in Haley Wickham and last year’s runner-up diver Michelle Kalupski to graduation, as well as would-be sophomore Kierston Farley-Sepe (who was top 6 in the 100 fly and 100 back last year), the Friars have themselves in great position to go head to head with the Trevians. Led by seniors Paulina Kaminski and University of Texas-bound Mimi Schneider, the Friars are favorites to take the medley and 400 relays. Schneider and Kaminski were taken off the 200 free relay so that they could add the 50 free and 200 IM, respectively. Schneider is the only 50 freestyler in the state who has been under 23 flat start, as well as the only butterflier under 55. Kaminski won the breaststroke title in 2011 and is expected to make top 6 in the IM this year. Seniors Maggie Sheean and Colleen Barron will try to hold down the 200 relay with senior Addy Curry and sophomore Theresa Mullen, both newcomers to a relay at state. Curry qualified for the 50 free last year and swam at state, but was not on a relay.
DOWNERS GROVE NORTH: DGN returns the Sims twins and all the necessary components for a 3rd place trophy run. Gabby Sims was 2nd in the backstroke last year to Smoliga and won the 100 freestyle, and she will look to be a double-winner at state this year. Maddy Sims is swimming all relays and the 100 fly, where she has the 3rd best time in the state after sectionals. The twins won’t be pulling all of the weight; Junior Emily Albrecht was a 22.74 anchoring their medley relay at sectionals and Gabriele Serniute, a junior, pulled a 2:03.68 200 IM and dropped nearly 4 seconds to put herself at the top of state rankings based on sectional results. These four, along with freshman Lindsay Mathys, who was 1:52 and 5:03 in the 200 and 500 freestyle at Sectionals, will join New Trier and Fenwick with three strong relays which will likely be top 6 each.
MEDLEY RELAY: Fenwick has ruled the medley relay the past two years, but DGN posted an incredibly fast 1:42.48 at sectionals. That is the top time in the state by almost three seconds, however New Trier and Fenwick will be fully suited and tapered for state and will both likely be down under 1:43. What gives the Friars the edge is Schneider’s fly leg, which was a blistering 23.31 at state prelims last year. Other teams to watch out for are Loyola Academy and St. Charles East. The Ramblers of Loyola have strong legs, most notably in backstroker Libby Jardeleza. She was 54.30 in her 100 back at NCSA’s this past spring. Jordan Morling of St. Charles East, who moved here from Virginia, has slapped up 56’s in her 100 back this season, which matches her taper time from this spring. Shea Hoyt will swim the breast leg for them, and she was 1:03.96 in the 100 breast at state last year. The Morling-Hoyt combo may prove to be the fastest relay at the 100 mark.
200 FREE: The 200 free should feature a very stacked A final. State power Stevenson High School has two girls who have been 1:51 mid-season unsuited in seniors Cheryl Xiang and Julia Wawer. Senior Nikol Lagodzinska of St. Ignatius, another state power, and junior Grace Tierney (Loyola) have both been 1:53 this season, which matches their taper times from last spring. These four are expected to join sophomore Kirsten Jacobsen (Barrington) and junior Erin Falconer (Mundelein) in the A final. Falconer is the only one of these six who has been under 1:50, as she was 1:48.98 this spring. Jacobsen, who won the 500 last year, was 1:50.12 for 3rd last year. Stephanie Garvin (St. Charles East) and Charlotte Rosenberg (Latin School) were both 1:51 at their sectional meet and will challenge for the A final.
200 IM: Serniute of DGN is the only IMer under 2:05 going into state based on sectionals results. Others looking to join her in the A final are Lane Tech senior Meghan Lavelle, Lake Forest sophomore Reilly Lanigan and sophomore Annie Gosselin of Rosary. These three have bests just under 2:05 and will challenge Serniute for the title. Lucenti and Kaminski have been 2:06’s mid season and were not fully rested for sectionals, and they will fight to compete again in the A final on Saturday.
50 FREE: The 50 free has become very packed with the improvement of Glenbrook South’s Katie Wells, who has already been 23.86 (compared to her 24.18 last year which didn’t make finals), and Natalie Tapia of Ignatius who has been 24.11 (compared to 24.44 at state last year). Star freshmen Ingrid Wall and Lake Forest’s Daria Pyshnenko have both been 23 high already this season. Wall actually split a 22.98 untapered anchoring the Trevs’ 200 free relay at their invite meet in October. Not to be undone, Wells split 22.89 unsuited at the end of GBS’ 200 free relay at sectionals. Downstate lone wolf Avery Braunecker, who was runner-up to Smoliga last year with a 23.09, will also be in contention for the title. Albrecht of DGN was 23.74 at sectionals. Also returning from last year’s A final are Waubonsie Valley’s Maddie Hunt, who took 4th in 23.69, and Barrington’s Mekenna Scheitlin, who was 6th in 23.72. In 2011, there were only three 23’s in finals in this event. This year, breaking 24 will most likely not guarantee a spot in the top 12.
100 FLY: The butterfly will feature 2011 champion Mimi Schneider of Fenwick. After taking 2nd to Dalesandro last year, she won’t have to face anyone that has ever been under 55, and it seems unlikely that anyone will be able to match a 53, which is what she went to win the 2011 title. Olivia Scott’s 53.09 record may be taken down here if Schneider can improve upon her 2011 time. Other likely competitors in the A final include Lanigan (Lake Forest), junior Jardeleza (Loyola), breakout sophomore Katherine May of Edwardsville, and senior Kelly McNamara of Addison-Trail Willowbrook Co-op. Maddy Sims could join these five as well if she can hold on to her taper.
100 FREE: Gabby Sims will likely rule the 100 free again. She won last year in 49.57, and the 48.88 state record held by Smoliga could quite possibly be in jeopardy here. Braunecker will return with the 2nd fastest time (she was 50.97 last year) along with a few familiar names; Wawer and Xiang of Stevenson, Tapia and Lagodzinska of Ignatius, and Mundelein’s Erin Falconer. Falconer was 50.16 at her sectional meet, so Sims may have some company under the 50 second umbrella. Mekenna Scheitlin, who swam fly last year, is moving to the 100 and could contend for an A final spot if she brings the speed she showed in the 50 last year. This is easily the most crowded event, and none of these girls can afford to hold back if they want to come back for a second swim Saturday.
500 FREE: Jacobsen of Barrington is going to be gunning for the state record (Adrienne Bicek’s 4:46.66) and will likely leave the rest of the field in the dust in the 500. Loyola’s Tierney had the 2nd fastest time in the state before sectionals (counting out Wawer and Falconer who will not be in this event) and New Trier’s Ryan was only a hundredth behind. This is one of the weaker events, but it will still take a time close to 5:00 to make it back for another swim. Senior Izzie Bindseil (St. Charles East), junior Charlotte Rosenberg (Latin School), senior Nelly Casas (Oswego), and senior Kelsie Walker (Carbondale) are among the few that have bests under 5:00. Walker was in the A final with Jacobsen last year and took 6th.
200 FREE RELAY: Prior to sectionals, Schneider and Wall of Fenwick and New Trier, respectively, were expected to provide the hammer for their 200 free relay. Since, they have been moved out of it, and teams with great freestylers (Stevenson, Mundelein, DGN and St. Ignatius) are going to have a great chance to upset the big two.
100 BACK: Gabby Sims will have to be very wary of Jardeleza in the backstroke. Look for a pair of 53s from those two. Meghan Lavelle (Lane Tech) won the B final last year in a time that would’ve placed 3rd in the A final (56.07) and has since lowered her best to 55.96, making her the third and final girl who has ever been under 56 in the state. Jordan Morling (St. Charles East) has been matching her taper time of 56 mid this season unrested. Junior Natalie McGovern of Neuqua Valley was 56.30 at her sectional meet compared to her state time of 57.60 last year which was one spot shy of finals. She has the potential to catapult herself into the A final next week.
100 BREAST: Kaminski (Fenwick) won the breaststroke in 2011 with a 1:03.96, a time that might not even guarantee an A final spot this year. She was 1:02.53 for third last year. Lucenti (NT) and Hoyt (St. Charles East) will challenge– they were both 1:03’s last year. Hoyt actually has the best meters time. She was 1:11.78 at NCSAs this past summer, while Kaminski was 1:12.26 at Jr Nats and Lucenti 1:13.77 at the Minnesota LC Speedo Champs. Glenbrook North’s Erin Oliphant was right behind them with 1:14.28, and had the 5th best time in the state this season before sectionals (1:05.35) just behind Katie Wells (1:04.97). Kaminski, Wall, Hoyt, and junior Alaina Potts (Dunlap) were the only 1:04’s at sectionals this year.
400 FREE RELAY: New Trier, Fenwick, Stevenson, DGN, Mundelein and St. Ignatius will again battle in the 400 relay. No team really has a weak leg, and it wouldn’t be surprising if each leg on all of these relays break 53. The deciding factor then is who will have the fastest anchors. Schneider and Gabby Sims are both capable of breaking 49 with a relay start, and they will come home against Ingrid Wall for what could be the deciding event in terms of team scores. Kaminski, Wall and Jennifer Kordik (Mundelein) will be coming straight out of the 100 breast, but all of the other girls on these relays will be well rested. Tapia-Lagodzinska of Ignatius and Wawer-Xiang of Stevenson will face off for the final time, and let’s not forget about Falconer (Mundelein) going 50.16 at sectionals. The roof will probably come down at New Trier’s famed pool by the time the anchors dive in.
New Trier is going to go hard to keep their four-peat hope alive, but Fenwick will make it extremely close. DGN looks for their first trophy in their history, and Ignatius and Stevenson will be right on their heels, looking for their highest finish in recent years.
Double champion watch:: Gabby Sims (100 back and 100 free), Mimi Schneider (100 fly and 50 free), Kirsten Jacobsen (200 and 500 free).