Kathryn Ryan

In years past, Kathryn Ryan often joked that the 1989 movie “A Bug’s Life” would make a great theme for the Riverside Brookfield High School girls swimming and diving team’s Senior Night.

Little did the senior know that she inspired younger teammates to use that theme for this season’s Senior Night Oct. 10 against Morris.

“Sophomore or junior year I was like, ‘Oh, it would be really funny to have ‘A Bug’s Life,’ theme. (Current junior Hailey Vlcek) heard that,” Ryan said.

“It wasn’t originally supposed to be ‘A Bug’s Life.’ That’s what I heard. But the whole background, being a funny joke in the past, made it a perfect Senior Night. It shows what our team is like.”

\This season’s senior swimmers are tri-captains Emily Baartman, Caroline Strubbe and Ryan, Marie Frais, Priscilla Gil, Lorelei Leimberer, Madelyn Monroy and Mia Sahagun.
They’re hoping for one last memorable time together at the Hinsdale Central Sectional Saturday. The top finisher in each event automatically qualifies for the state meet as well as entries that achieve state-qualifying standards at the meet.

Emily Baartman

The best chances are individual events for Vlcek, an all-state fourth last season in the 200-yard freestyle (1:52.30), and sophomore Maria Ellis in the 200 individual medley, as well as free relays.

RBHS coach Mike Laurich said because of the strong field, which includes Lyons Township and Hinsdale Central, the Bulldogs need to swim state cuts to advance.

“My past few meets haven’t been all that good so I’m really banking on sectionals to go perfectly,” Baartman said. “I have some major goals and I’m really excited to meet those goals and to surpass them even.”

The seniors’ expectations were met for Senior Night. That morning, they received their customized shirts so that everyone in the school would know. They also got a sneak peek at the pool area decorated with butterflies and bees.

“It was a really surreal experience. It just goes by really fast,” Strubbe said. “It was just a really heartwarming moment to get to say goodbye to everyone, kind of, and have the last hurrah.”

Caroline Strubbe

“You got to make that joke with the juniors and then it actually ended up being ‘A Bug’s Life’ made it 1,000 times funnier,” Baartman said. “I loved it. The fact that it was a running joke. It was almost us that kind of made it a thing our freshman and sophomore year. It really made it actually being ‘A Bug’s Life’ even better.”

The seniors get to choose events for Senior Night. Event winners were Baartman (100 free in 58.93), the 200 medley relay of Leimberer, Strubbe, Ryan and Baartman (2:07.92), Vlcek (500 free in 5:18.93 and 200 IM in 2:13.18), Ellis (200 free in 2:03.68 and 100 butterfly in 1:03.49), Olivia Dobbe (100 backstroke in 1:09.82), diver Brynn Gizewski (187.50 points), the 200 free relay of Ellis, Vlcek, Clare Ruska and Annie Hector (1:51.42) and the 400 free relay of Ellis, Maggie McCoy, Ryan and Vlcek (3:52.40).

“It’s definitely one of the loudest meets,” Strubbe said. “My favorite part was lining up and hugging everybody (after). It’s kind of a special moment. You can really reflect on all that you learned and all of the friends you’ve made.”

The tri-captains have been four-year team members. Even the first day of practice was memorable. The tornado siren went off.

“We have to get out of the pool, go downstairs and we sat sopping wet and then we still had to come up and keep swimming after we got the all clear,” Baartman said. “It was such a wild first day of swim. It was really fun and also terrifying because I hate tornadoes.”

At one smaller practice, Ryan remembers Laurich doing flips to teach the divers and then showing swimmers how to do perfect open turns. For the postseason, Laurich also dyes his hair – and beard – along with the team. Last year, he used blue.

As sophomores, the captains and Vlcek set the sophomore school record in the 200 free relay (1:44.95). When the nameplate arrived for the record board, Strubbe’s first initial was S instead of C.

“S. Strube is Caroline’s older sister Sarah (a 2020 graduate),” Baartman said. “(Laurich) was really mad but it was really funny.”

Strubbe remembers singing ‘Who Let the Dogs Out’ on the way to sectionals. The seniors hope to make the best of this swan song.

“I definitely want to try to get personal bests (at sectionals) and I also just want to have a special moment with my team,” Ryan said. “It’s definitely important to me to swim fast but I also think in order to swim fast you have to have fun. I want to have a positive mindset throughout the whole meet.”