Junior Maggie Adler is the only Lyons Township High School girls swimmer or diver with connections to the last IHSA state meet in 2019, and that was as an alternate.
Several Lions earned more first-hand experience than even they anticipated by reaching the state finals in the 200- and 400-yard freestyle relays at the new FMC Natatorium in Westmont on Nov. 13.
“We went in just trying to have fun. We were happy to be there in general. Making two of the finals was a really big deal for us,” Adler said.
“It was a really cool experience, far different from any meet I’ve been in before. The energy was insane. It was like a whole new experience.”
Adler, junior Becky Phillips and sophomore Amelia Mariano finished 10th in the 200 free relay with freshman Audrey Cavaliere (1:35.91) and 11th in the 400 free relay with senior Molly Norgle (3:33.41).
“It was just so cool to stand up [for awards], knowing that we were in the top 12 in the state. It’s something I’ll remember for a really long time,” Mariano said.
Entries among the six fastest times in Friday’s preliminaries competed for Saturday’s championship heat. The next six raced for seventh through 12th.
Riverside-Brookfield High School freshman Hailey Vlcek again broke her school records that she set at sectionals. Vlcek tied for 20th in the 100 free (52.59) and was 13th in the 200 free (1:52.74).
Vlcek was 0.32 from 12th and dropped 0.78 in achieving a nationals cut for her Academy Bullets club season.
“When I was younger, I used to doubt myself more,” Vlcek said. “I used to put limitations on myself but now, not really. No more barriers.”
“You come in in as a freshman normally you either fold or rise and she did a great job,” RBHS coach Mike Laurich said. “More importantly she had her teammates here cheering for her, deciding how do we all get here next year.”
The Lions posted their second-best times in both relays Saturday after season bests Friday’s preliminary heats that dusted respective previous bests from sectionals by 0.78 and 1.87 seconds behind four lifetime bests.
The 400 free relay’s 3:32.09 prelim time was the final qualifier by 0.67. The Lions raced in the first of three heats and nervously watched the scoreboard.
“When I tell you it was the most exciting, stressful five minutes of my life, it definitely was,” Mariano said. “If you look at the livestream, you’ll see all of us in a huddle just looking at our phones, refreshing, refreshing. The excitement we got when we refreshed and got 12th was so, so, so cool.”
In the 50 free prelims, Adler swam an open lifetime-best 24.26 for 29th. Other LTHS state qualifiers were the 200 medley relay of Mariano, junior Theo Calafeteanu, sophomore Avery Riley and Adler (21st, 1:48.65), senior diver Catherine Bonanno (29th, 179.65 points) and Riley (33rd in 200 individual medley, 2:16.79).