Senior varsity swimmer Mary Izzo, left, and freshman varsity swimmer Hailey Vlcek, in the Aquatic Center at Riverside Brookfield High School. Izzo serves as Vlcek’s “Big Sister” | Alex Rogals/Staff Photographer

Riverside-Brookfield freshman swimmer Hailey Vlcek began her first R-B Invitational Sept. 11 with the 200-yard freestyle and quite a challenge.

The competition included talented Oak Park and River Forest High School freshman Sadie Murphy, Vlcek’s teammate on the Academy Bullets Club swim team.

“She normally beats me at pretty much everything,” Vlcek said. “I beat her once before, the 200 [butter]fly, but she just swam right before the event.”

This time, Vlcek finished first. 

There was more to celebrate. It was the first of Vlcek’s two school records previously held by Sara Martinek from 2004.

“It was before I was born,” said Vlcek, smiling. 

“I want to say determination [helped]. I really wanted to, not say win, but I just really wanted to have at it, get new [best] times. I wasn’t expecting to break two records, but that’s what happened. I was kind of nervous but it was a nervous excited.”

Vlcek’s 1:54.19 beat the 1:55.28 school and frosh-soph record. Murphy was second in 1:55.07.

“I touched the wall and then I looked up at the [record] board and my jaw dropped,” Vlcek said. “Oh yeah, 100 percent [Murphy pushed me].”

Later in the 100 free, Vlcek’s 52.85 broke the 53.16 varsity and frosh-soph record to win by more than three seconds.

On Sept. 7 at York, Vlcek’s 1:00.64 for the 100 fly broke the frosh-soph school record of 1:01.23 by Claire Kawiecki in 2016.

“She made a big jump [at the invite],” said R-B coach Mike Laurich, who also coaches Vlcek with the Bullets, which trains at R-B. “We knew she’d make an impact. She was always that kid you saw working really hard. Everything she got, she’s worked for.”

Vlcek’s records already have beaten the 52.86 and 1:54.88 times needed at sectionals to automatically qualify for the Nov. 12-13 state meet. 

R-B senior Mary Izzo qualified for 2019 state in the 100 free. Because of COVID-19 restrictions, the 2020 state meet was not held.

As a sophomore, Izzo came within .1 of R-B’s 100 free record.

“I was definitely sad. But I’m so happy [Vlcek] got it now,” Izzo said. “I love watching her. It sounds weird, but it’s so cool watching this girl come up and she has three years left, four basically. I’m like, ‘She’s going to kill it.’” 

The summer before fourth grade, Vlcek began competitive swimming with the Village Field Club and joined the Bullets soon afterwards. 

Izzo also competes for the Bullets, but club events are divided by age groups. Vlcek and Izzo knew of each other, but not personally. 

At this past club state meet, Vlcek and Izzo finally talked and bonded quickly. They’re now paired as part of R-B’s Big Sister, Little Sister team bonding. 

“I knew I wanted this girl because she is just an awesome person and super-talented in the water,” Izzo said. “It’s a good relationship because it’s beneficial both ways. I kind of have the wisdom of being on the team, and she’s pushing me to be better myself.”

“I was really happy about that, too. She’s really motivating,” Vlcek said. “I didn’t really expect to come into high school this season and have it turn out this well. I’m really happy because I’ve gotten to meet a lot of the seniors, the juniors. It’s pretty cool that I’ve gotten to do all of this in such a short amount of time.”

At its six-team invite, R-B (282 points) finished second to OPRF (367). Vlcek and Izzo were part of the second-place 400 free relay with sophomore Kate Ryan and junior Emma McVicker (3:49.37) and second-place 200 free relay with Ryan and junior Aja McKay (1:43.95).

Izzo also was second in the 200 individual medley (2:18.50) and fifth in the 100 backstroke and McKay was third in the 50 free and 100 back. Ryan, McVicker, senior Cecilia Rosa, sophomore Caroline Strubbe and freshman diver Olivia Denson added top-six individual finishes.