Junior Hailey Vlcek (left) and sophomore Maria Ellis. | Bill Stone

Junior Hailey Vlcek took a huge step in 2022 by becoming the first top-six, girls all-state swimmer in Riverside-Brookfield High School history. The medal for fourth in the 200-yard freestyle (1:52.30) came with other rewards.

“It’s given me a lot of different goals and insight on what I’m capable of,” Vlcek said. “I feel like I know not to doubt myself so much and I’m able to do more than I think I can. I feel motivated toward working hard to reach new goals and set more.” 

Vlcek hopes to return to state with teammates after her breakthrough season, which also included reaching state in the 500 free (17th, 5:08.60) with her second-fastest time ever.

She set all-time school records in the 200 free (1:51.78 at sectionals), 100 butterfly (59.14) and 200 individual medley (2:10.00) and the sophomore record for the 500 free (5:07.58).

In the 200 free, Vlcek broke her 2021 record of 1:52.71 (13th at the state prelims), .32 from the last spot in the top-12 consolation state finals.

Also back from the lineup are seniors Emily Baartman, Kate Ryan and Caroline Strubbe, junior Reese Phelan, and sophomore Maria Ellis.

Key varsity newcomers include senior Lorelei Leimberer; juniors Audrey Simpson, Olivia Dobbe, Clare Ruska and Sophie Ivan; junior transfer Emily Munoz; and sophomore Chloe Ivan. Maggie McCoy, Annie Hector, Isabel Rosa, Brynn Gizewski and Paige Phelan are among 16 freshmen.

“I’m really excited to get to know them and get them introduced to the swimming program,” Vleck said. “Going to state is my big goal and then hopefully placing top-three would be my biggest goal and then trying to go for new cuts for club season.” 

At last year’s sectional, Vlcek and Ellis swam with the 200 free relay (1:39.96) and 400 relay (3:39.34), finishing third by dropping 5.95 and 7.89 seconds, but missing the respective 1:37.82 and 3:34.55 state cuts. 

“We are looking at improving our overall team and trying to get more kids qualified for state and hopefully a relay or two,” RBHS swim coach Mike Laurich responded. “We have a large group of girls and lots of opportunities for them to step up and claim a spot.”