Young and determined, the Fenwick girls swim team set the bar last season at the IHSA State Meet. Made up mostly of underclassmen, the team finished fifth overall. This season, the Friars may still be young on paper, but in the pool, they’re expected to again be in the race for a top 5 or better finish.

Back to make waves are a slew of top-notch swimmers in Mimi Schneider (freestyle), Paulina Kaminski (medley, breaststroke), Haley Wickham (breaststroke), Veronica Gibson (butterfly, distance), Maureen Barron (freestyle), Mary Devereux (butterfly, medley) and Jackie Woods (breaststroke).

Individually, each swimmer has accomplished a lot in the pool already. Schneider, just a sophomore, qualified for next summer’s Olympic Trials with her performance at the USA Swimming Junior Olympic National Meet in Palo Alto, Calif. In her state meet debut last season, she finished third in the 100-yard freestyle with a time of 51:40 seconds.

Gibson won the 200 butterfly at the Summer Senior Championships. Along with Schneider, Kaminski, Whickham and Barron were members of Fenwick’s 200-yard freestyle relay team that finished second at state (1:36.41). 

Diver Michelle Kalupski is also back this season. The senior finished 12th overall at state last year.  

“We are very fortunate this year that all of the swimmers who were on last year’s sectionals are returning,” said Fenwick head coach Renee Miller, now in her 12th year. “All of our swimmers worked very hard in the off-season and are in shape and ready to go.”

Even with the influx of young talent on the team, Miller hinted at the possibility of two freshmen making an impact on varsity this season. Katie Vulich and Leah Cielinski look promising, she said. “They are versatile and willing to help the team in any way that they can.”

Unseating Rosary from its long-time reign atop the Metro Catholic Aquatics Conference will remain a difficult challenge for the Friars again this season. The Royals finished third at state last year also without a senior competing in the finals.

But finishing a notch up from last year’s third place is certainly attainable for OPRF. Last year’s state and MCAC runner-up Loyola lost a few key swimmers to graduation.

“I really like the way the team overall was ready to go this year from Day 1,” said Miller of her Friars. “They talked about going for a trophy again this year and they came ready to do that.

“We know it is going to be tough because of all the talent, but we are going to work hard and stay focused.”

The Friars, who began the season with wins over Regina and Marist, host Benet on Friday at 5 p.m. They’ll welcome cross-town rival OPRF on Sept. 20.