The 2014 Illinois High School Girls’ State Championship meet moved back to Evanston Township High School this year, which means 6-lane A-and-B-finals.
Besides the able-bodied standard high school finals, Illinois continues to progress in its proomotion of finals for swimmers with disabilities. These races still don’t count toward team scoring, but even after the graduation of star Alyssa Gialamas, there was a record 6 entries in the girls’ 50 free. With 5 of those 6 swimmers being underclassmen, expect that field to continue to grow in future years.
Athletes Without Disabilities (Standard Finals)
Willmette’s Loyola Academy has won their first-ever Illinois team state championship in women’s swimming, as head coach Michael Hengelmann led his team to victory on Saturday night.
Fast-forwarding to the girls’ 200 free relay, Loyola Academy was in great position with a 22-point lead.
In that 200 free relay, Downers North, with a 1:35.24 picked up significant points thanks to a senior-heavy relay that had three of their four legs go better than 24 seconds. Emily Albrecht (23.59), Daria Wick (24.29), Gabriele Serniute (23.82), and Lindsay Mathys (23.54) won this race by a narrow quarter-of-a-second, thanks to the gutsy anchor by the senior Mathys – that split is 1.3 seconds faster than her best recorded flat-start time in the event.
New Trier took 2nd in 1:35.49, Rosary was 3rd in 1:35.74, and Lake Forest, getting a 23.19 split from Daria Pyshnenko, was 4th, while the team leaders from Loyola Academy took 5th.
That difference pulled Downers North within 10 points of the leaders. That margin, however, wasn’t as close as it seemed.
Downers North did most of their damage early in the session, and with finals places at a premium, they didn’t have any individual scorers left in the two remaining individual races: the 100 backstroke and 100 breaststroke.
Thanks to a 5th-place finish from Loyola’s Maria Jardeleza (56.22), they were able to extend themselves to an all-but-DQ 20-point margin going into the final relay.
That margin was more than Loyola needed; anchored by Wisconsin commit Grace Tierney, they swam a 3:27.05 to top Lake Forest (3:27.18) and win the meet the right way: with a last-event victory.
Top 5 team scores
1. Loyola Academy – 148
T-2. Downers North – 118
T-2. Rosary – 118
4. Lake Forest – 114
5. St. Charles North – 61
The Neuqua Valley girls opened the meet with a win in the women’s 200 medley relay, with the team of Natalie McGovern (26.19), Amanda Brockmeier (29.48), Wyli Erlechman (24.76), and Mackenzie Hornstra (24.03) combined for a 1:44.46 winning time.
Downers North took 2nd in 1:45.14 with a first big anchor from Mathys in 23.37, and the hosts Evanston took 3rd place.
Rolling into the individual events, Kirsten Jacobsen from Barrington ran away with the women’s 200 free. She swam a 1:47.77 to easily defend her title in the event, though almost a second slower than she won with last year, and beat Tierney’s 1:50.47.
Jacobsen would also defend her title, buy an equally-impressive margin, in the 500 free with a 4:47.29. She took that swim out in a quick 1:50.75 over the first 200 yards and beat out St. Charles North’s Audrey Guyett (4:53.57). Audrey’s older sister Monica Guyett took 3rd in 4:53.91.
Rosary’s Alexis Yager won the girls’ 200 IM in 2:02.15. She was the best breaststroker in the final, and that showed when she turned a one-second deficit going in to the breaststroke leg into a lead coming out of it on her way to victory.
Gabby Serniute from Downers North took 2nd in 2:03.54 and Lake Forest’s Reilly Lanigan charged home with a 28.8 split en route to a total time of 2:03.57.
Effingham’s Avery Braunecker dipped under 22 seconds to win the girls’ 50 free in 22.99 and came back after the diving break to win the girls’ 100 free as well in 50.40. Braunecker is just the 7th swimmer in the history of the Illinois State Meet to dip under 23 seconds to win the state title (including the National High School Record by Olivia Smoliga in 2012).
In the 100 free, Erin Faulconer took 2nd in 50.43 – just .03 seconds back – thanks to a roaring back-half split of 26.11 to nearly overcome a four-tenths deficit at the halfway mark.
The 100 backstroke title went to Neuqua Valley’s Natalie McGover in 55.12; she used a very good back-half to pull away from St. Charles East’s Jordan Morling (56.05) and Boylan Catholic’s Aby Olson (56.06). Most of the field was within three-tenths halfway before McGovern was able to separate in the last 50.
And finally, the last individual event of the night was the only one won by a freshman (including relays), as Metamora Co-Op’s Noelle Peplowski took the 100 breaststroke in 1:03.69. She beat out Rosary sophomore Yager, earlier winner in the 200 IM, to become her school’s first-ever event champion.
Athletes With Disabilities
The finals for Athletes with Disabilities are divided into two classifications at the Illinois State Championship: Classification A and Classification B. Classification A compares to International Paralympic Committee classes S1-S7, and Classification B compares to IPC classes S8-S13. Swimmers are ranked within their classification specifically on time.
Both of the women’s 200 freestyle races were won by newcomers to the Illinois State Championship meet. Ana Kohout from Lake Forest took Classification A uncontested in 3:53.32, filling the significant gap left by the graduation of Paralympian Alyssa Gialamas after last season.
In Classification B, it was Jones’ Sophia Vilim who won in 2:25.09, which blew-away the old State Record in the event by 40 seconds. Sandburg sophomore Rachael Apter took 2nd in 3:39.20, and Maine South junior Francesca Figlioli, the lone returning swimmer from last year’s meet, took 3rd in 3:10.36 – a nearly-nine second improvement from last season.
In the girls’ 50 free, Samantha Peters won Classification A in 43.18, beaing out Kohout’s 51.34 Still a noteworthy swim for Kohout as her 50 yard time in that race was only a second faster than her starting 50 in the 200, showing how well she began that event.
In Classification B, Vilim took a second title with a 29.35 – breaking another State Record. The top four in Classification B was the same in both the 50 and 200 freestyles.
Richwoods senior Samantha Peters was last year’s State Champion in the 50 free, but in 2014 she skipped that event to focus on the 100 free for Classification A. She was rewarded for the decision with a state championship in 1:38.07, beating her seed time. Kohout took 2nd in 1:49.38 (event limits for athletes with disabilities are lifted).
And finally, in the last race of the night, Kohout grabbed a 2nd title in the 100 breaststroke with a 2:59.67, while Apter broke through for her first state title in 1:43.00 in Classification B.