By Marty Farmer
The Riverside-Brookfield High School girls swimming team has plenty of internal and external competition this season.
Externally, perennial powers Plainfield Co-op and Oswego East present problems in conference, while Fenwick and Oak Park and River Forest annually stand in the way of the Bulldogs at sectionals.
"We are in a strong conference," RBHS coach Michael Laurich said. "Plainfield and Oswego East are top teams. If you're not coming to race, you're not going to do well against those teams.
"We're still going to struggle against Fenwick and Oak Park just because they are more established, but we're still going to battle them."
Laurich is even more excited about the competition within the Bulldogs' own pool. From seniors down to freshmen, battling for spots in the starting lineup appears to be fair game this fall.
"We have nine seniors on the team and a handful of freshmen on the team that are keeping everybody honest. The sophomore class is stepping up as well," Laurich said. "The lineup is not set by any means and there's good internal competition.
"We're a lot better as far as training goes. We're doing things now that I don't think we ever would have been capable of the last few years."
Sophomore Madeine Wenig is the team's top returner. She qualified for the state meet last year, placing 26th in the 100-yard breaststroke. At the 2017 Fenwick sectional, Wenig recorded a time of 1 minute, 5.24 seconds in the 100 breast to win the race and earn a berth to state as the Bulldogs' lone representative.
"Wenig is our most dedicated swimmer," Laurich said. "She knows what she wants and works for it. She's a year-round swimmer and she's doing really well."
Last summer, Wenig finished fifth in the 200-meter breaststroke and 18th in the 100-meter breaststroke at the NCSA Junior Championships.
In addition to Wenig, the Bulldogs return several other contributors, including seniors Veronica Cariveau (freestyle, butterfly), Sarah Pilewski (freestyle) and Shea Connelly (freestyle) plus juniors Claire Kawiecki (butterfly, relays) and Sarah Strubbe (backstroke).
A promising group of underclassmen tops off the roster. Freshmen Mary Izzo, Allison Brand and Cecilia Rosa are already contributing for the varsity.
"Our seniors and also juniors, Sarah and Claire, have been really instrumental in the program's development," Laurich said. "The work level has been raised. Everybody is working hard and has an opportunity to complete."
RBHS finished third at the Hinsdale South Hornet Invite over the weekend.
"The results at [the Hornet Invite] weren't the greatest individual times, but that had a lot to with a full week," Laurich said. "The fact we were swimming tired and still took third was what I was excited about more than anything else."
The Bulldogs host their invite on Saturday, Sept 15 at noon.
"Oak Park, Plainfield and Lake Park will be good competition at our invite," Laurich said. "We are just getting into the swing of things. We're looking to go into our home meet and keep figuring out the puzzle in terms of what we want to look like at the end of the year."