Riverside-Brookfield High School freshman Hailey Vlcek battles nerves most swimming meets.
Approaching the Sandburg Sectional Saturday with state berths on the line, Vlcek realized another level.
“You have to qualify [for state] and you can only qualify at sectionals,” Vlcek said. “I was more nervous than usual. Not overly nervous, but I was fine.”
Vlcek responded by breaking her school records in the 100- and 200-yard freestyle to qualify both events for the IHSA state preliminaries on Nov. 12 at the FMC Auditorium in Westmont.
Sectional team champion Lyons Township (309.5 points) qualified all three relays and three individuals by winning their events or achieving state cuts at the meet.
All eight Lions also will compete at state for the first time – juniors Maggie Adler, Becky Phillips and Theo Calafeteanu; seniors Catherine Bonanno and Molly Norgle; sophomores Amelia Mariano and Avery Riley; and freshman Audrey Cavaliere.
Adler qualified in all four events.
“It was crazy cool. I guess we came in knowing we could win sectionals but it was awesome to actually do it,” Phillips said. “We all just put in the work as normal. I feel like we’re closer this year than we ever have been.”
Vlcek won the 100 free (52.80 seconds) and 200 free (1:53.52), which broke her records of 52.85 and 1:54.19.
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“I was just focused on trying to get to state,” Vlcek said. “I want to try to make it to finals [top 12]. Also I want to get national cuts [for club season].”
Mariano, Calafeteanu, Riley and Adler won the 200 medley relay (1:47.90). Adler, Mariano and Phillips also won the 200 free relay with Cavaliere (1:36.54) and the 400 free relay with Norgle (3:33.96).
Adler (50 free, 24.55) and Riley (200 individual medley, 2:10.57) were individual champions. Diver Bonanno’s second-place 435.55 points advanced her as an at-large state qualifier.
The second-seeded Lions’ victory in the opening 200 medley relay set the tone. Adler’s personal-best 23.62 anchor split completed a come-from-behind victory over Sandburg (1:48.27).
“It was just really exciting because the whole crowd erupted. Everyone was jumping up and down and it just set off a really good vibe,” Adler said. “It was just really cool how we were able to lift each other up and were able to put it in the water.”
A 2019 state qualifier in the 100 free, RBHS senior Mary Izzo was second in the 100 backstroke by one one-hundredth of a second, but her time of 58.99 missed the 58.42 state cut.