Last year, New Trier won its fourth consecutive state title in girls swimming and diving, topping 43 other schools at their home pool.
The team is just as stacked this season with as many as eight All-CSL South swimmers returning. The Trevians’ depth comes from having several club teams in the area, including NASA Wildcat Aquatics and the New Trier Swim Club. New Trier coach Mac Guy said most of his incoming freshmen have been confident in all four strokes, allowing them to be instantly competitive at the JV level.
It wasn’t just the nine individual Ramblers swimmers that pushed Loyola to a fourth-place finish at state last year. Their three relay teams made just as much of an impact. Loyola finished fourth in the 200-yard medley relay (1 minute, 45.04 seconds), fifth in the 200 freestyle relay (1:36.60) and 10th in the 400 free relay (3:31.07).
“We always take pride in our relays,” coach Michael Hengelmann said. “We scored all three relays last year. Relays are obviously double points, too, so it helps to have nice relays. We always put the team emphasis first and put a lot of importance on the relay.”
The Titans ended last year on a roll, taking third in the CSL South championship, third at the Glenbrook South Sectional and 11th at state.
Senior Katie Wells racked up the high marks and top finishes in 2013 as a junior. She made the all-conference team and set school records in the 200-yard individual medley (2 minutes, 7.70 seconds) and 100 breaststroke (1:03.90). At the state finals, Wells finished fifth in the 50 freestyle (23.64) and sixth in the 100 breaststroke (1:04.01) and anchored the Titans’ 200 free relay team that finished fourth (1:36.45).
Coach Ashley Thielsen is entering her second year, and she and Regina have made some progress. When last season started, Regina only had seven swimmers. Now, the Panthers have 12.
The team’s main objective is to start setting school records, and senior freestyle sprinter KK Strenk is right around the team’s low marks in the 50-yard freestyle (26.2 seconds, set in 1999) and 100 free (58.71, 2001).
The Spartans placed fifth at the Glenbrook South Sectional last season and sent four swimmers to state. As a sophomore at the state finals a year ago, Erin Oliphant finished 11th in the 100-yard breaststroke (1 minute, 5.89 seconds) and 12th in the 200 individual medley (2:13.04).
Last year, the Wildkits had seven swimmers qualify for state in seven individual events and three relays. Only one of the swimmers, Rosselyn Lopez, graduated. Junior Iana Wolff had the best showing in the state finals, finishing 17th (57.79) in the 100-yard butterfly as a sophomore.
The Niles North girls swimming team was ready for the crack-of-dawn 6 a.m. practice on Aug. 14: Everyone had their suits and goggles on at 5:52.
Coach Paul Torres was impressed and started practice a little early.
“This is the fastest varsity team I have ever had,” said Torres, who’s entering his 12th year as a coach with Niles North. “We have a lot of girls who are fairly committed and that are really determined to do well.”
Senior Emma Helgeson had a fine run at the end of last year for the Wolves, parlaying a strong finish at the Glenbrook South Sectional into a trip to state. She won the 100-yard freestyle and finished second in the 200 free at the sectional. At the state finals, Helgeson came in 15th in the 100 free (52.66 seconds) and 27th in the 200 free (1:54.64).
With the desire to do even better in her final year, Helgeson kept busy in the offseason. As soon as her high school season ended, she registered with Skokie’s SWIFT Aquatics club.
While every school deals with losses due to graduation, the Hawks have been hit particularly hard. Jenna Zitkus qualified for state each year from 2010 to 2013 and finished 14th in the 100-yard backstroke (57.54) and 29th in the 100 butterfly (58.29) at state last year. She was a sure thing each meet for the Hawks: They could expect Zitkus to win individual events and anchor successful relay teams.
“Quite literally, everybody who’s going to be swimming on the varsity is going to have to do more than they’ve had to do in the past, and more than they probably thought,” coach Don Kura said. “It’ll be eye-opening for them to see what a loss like that looks like when you starting competing in meets against other teams.”
Junior Alyssa Kaewwilai returns to the Blue Demons and will specialize in the breaststroke and freestyle. After missing most of her freshman year because of a partially torn UCL in her left elbow, she participated in her first sectional meet last year. She didn’t qualify for state, and coach Peter Przekota said she was a little nervous with so much on the line her first time out.
“Hopefully with that year under her belt and another year of training, she’s ready to go this year,” Przekota said.