Hailey Vlcek

Barely missing the second-day finals at the 2021 girls swimming and diving state meet, Riverside-Brookfield High School sophomore Hailey Vlcek wants her return trip to last a lot longer.

RBHS coach Mike Laurich had the same idea, and with five of last year’s six championship finalists graduating in the 500-yard freestyle, Laurich believed that Vlcek should try to reach state in that event after being a 2021 state qualifier in the 200 and 100 free.

“He told me if I ever decided to, I could opt out and do something else,” Vlcek said. “I decided to keep with it because I thought I could do it.” 

On Nov. 5, Vlcek reached state in the 500 and also qualified in the 200 free with a school-record, championship performance at the IHSA Hinsdale Central Sectional.

Sectional champions automatically qualify for state prelims Friday at the FMC Natatorium in Westmont as well as entries that achieve state-qualifying standards.

The Bulldogs were fifth as a team (116 points) with no other individual qualifiers.

Vlcek’s winning 1:51.78 in the 200 free broke her 1:52.71 school record that was 13th at the 2021 state prelims. Her second-place 500 free (5:07.58) broke her sophomore school record of 5:11.96 and was well under the 5:09.03 state cut.

“I think I did better than I was expecting, but I tried not to set many expectations on myself,” Vlcek said.

At this weekend’s state meet, those among the top six times in the Nov. 11 prelims advance to the Nov. 12 championship heat. The seventh through 12th times compete in the consolation heat.

Vlcek had the No. 3 fastest sectional time for the 200 free and No. 15 for the 500 free, just 3.97 seconds from sixth.

“And we felt that the 100 free was really packed,” Laurich said. “We thought that there was a better opportunity to maybe get a second swim on Saturday – based on returning people.”

Vlcek, seniors Aja McKay and Emma McVicker and freshman Maria Ellis were third in the 200 free relay (1:39.96) and 400 relay (3:39.34) by dropping 5.95 and 7.89 seconds but missed the respective 1:37.82 and 3:34.55 state cuts.