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The Loyola Ramblers, fresh off their first Illinois High School Association championship last year, came out swinging in their first duel meet of their 2015 season. They kicked off their season last week with a win the first event of the year, just finishing ahead of rivals Lake Forest, 1:47.70 to 1:48.01.
That time is particularly notable as it’s less than two seconds off of their time that earned them fifth place at the state meet last year. That medley relay last week featured three of the four girls who swam on Loyola’s medley relay at the state championship last season. While they didn’t win that race at states last year, they would add fifth-place finishes in the 200 free relay, a victory in the 400 free relay, and individual in A- and B-finals to win the state championship.
Victory eluded Loyola in last week’s duel meet, as they ultimately weren’t able to defeat Lake Forest, who finished fourth at states last year, but according to an article in the Chicago Tribune, Loyola’s coach, Mike Hengelmann, wants exactly this kind competition all season long. Hengelmann credited this kind of approach with helping Loyola’s girls feel more confident as they approached championship season.
“I’d rather lose every dual meet than go undefeated against teams that aren’t as good or as talented as us,” Hengelmann told the Tribune. “I think it helped us last year because the girls weren’t intimidated by the end of the season. They had already raced against most of the state’s best girls.”
By all accounts, last week’s duel much had energy much more in line with championship meet than a normal dual meet, as both schools begun their pursuit of this year’s IHSA championship. To that end, both teams will be relying on some of their top swimmers from last year to help replace points lost by graduation.
Seniors Reilly Lanigan and Daria Psyhenko are Lake Forest’s only returning A-finalists from last year state championship. Lanigan finished third in the 200 IM, and Psyhenko finished second in the 50 free. Psyhenko just won the B-final of the 50 free at last month’s Speedo Junior National Championships.
Loyolla doesn’t have any individual finalists, but returns most of the swimmers on their relay teams, including junior Ella Tierney, who had the second-fastest split on Loyola’s first place 400 free relay team last year. The only girl on that team who was faster was Ella’s sister Grace, who will be swimming for Wisconsin this year.
Loyola will continue their tough duel meet lineup by swimming against a number of the top teams in the state, including Rosary, which tied for second place at states last year, as Loyola continues to prepare to defend their championship this year.