Lyons Township High School junior Audrey Cavaliere was focused solely on qualifying for the girls swimming and diving state meet at the Hinsdale Central Sectional Saturday.
The thrill-of-a-lifetime-best 51.12 to win the race came with an added shock. Cavaliere broke the 51.16 school record by Emily Claesson from 2019.
“Emily was a really good swimmer and it’s an honor to take that spot from her,” Cavaliere, the No. 1 seed at 52.93.
“I never even thought of breaking the 100 free school record. I never even thought that was in the region of possibility. I didn’t even know what the school record was. I was not expecting to see a 51. I was just hoping to go a 52. That was really, really cool.”
The Lions again had numerous great swims as they beat the Red Devils 318-310 for their second sectional team title in three seasons after previously beating out the rivals for their first West Suburban Conference Silver title since 2018.
Junior Ella Jean Kelly also won the 50 free (23.64) and 100 breast stroke (1:04.17) in a 4-for-4 victories showing.
Sophomore Maeve Collins won the 100 butterfly (56.09) and the Lions swept the 200 free relay with Cavaliere, Collins, senior Libby Langan and Kelly (1:34.41) and 400 free relay with Cavaliere, sophomore Kylie Thompson, Langan and Kelly (3:27.71).
“I just really liked the whole energy on deck. And it was nice seeing the whole team in the audience,” Kelly said. “It was nice to see everybody go (personal or season) best times, even if it wasn’t state qualifying.”
Sectional champions automatically qualified for the state meet Friday and Saturday at the FMC Natatorium in Westmont as well as entries that achieve state-qualifying times at the meet.
Other qualifying Lions were second-place sophomore Lindsay Forebaugh in the 100 fly (56.80) and 500 free (5:08.63), sophomore Dylan Jorgensen in the 200 individual medley (2:08.08) and the 200 medley relay of Thompson, junior Lauren Jablonski, Collins and Cavaliere (1:44.72), third-place Jablonski in the 100 breast stroke (1:06.66) and Langan in the 200 free (1:55.24) and sixth-place Langan in the 100 free (52.65). In diving, second-place senior Tess Walker (441.15 points for 11 dives) and third-place freshman Brynn Krantz (407.20) beat the 405.20 at-large cut.
At state, the Lions should improve on last season’s ninth-place finish and possibly challenge for their second top-three state trophy. LTHS was third in 1995.
“(Our performances) just goes to show what a special team this is because they just seem to rally around certain circumstances and situations and they do it while having so much fun,” LTHS coach Scott Walker said.
“The entire team followed them to the (sectional) so every time they’re swimming, all of the other girls (cheering) have a big part in that.”
New this season, the top 16 performers in Friday’s preliminaries advance to Saturday’s finals versus 12 in the past. The top eight times compete for the state championship Saturday.
The Lions had the fastest overall sectional time in the 400-free relay and No. 2 in the 200 free relay. Cavaliere (50 free), Kelly (100 breast) and the 200-medley relay had No. 5 times.
In 2022, Cavaliere and Kelly were part of the all-state fifth-place 200 free relay (1:34.87) and sixth-place 400 free relay (3:28.55), the Lions’ first top-six state finishes since 2019. The 200-medley relay with Thompson, Jorgensen, Forebaugh and Cavaliere was 11th (1:47.36).
On Saturday, the 400 relay broke its 3:29.16 Hinsdale Central pool record set at last year’s sectional with Kelly and Cavaliere.
Kelly is mastering swimming the 400 free relay right after the preceding 100 breast.
“I got out of the pool, hopped into the warm-down pool, took a little energy drink and then had to hop up on the (starting) block. I think the adrenaline gets me through it,” Kelly said.
Tess Walker achieved her highest score Saturday. Last season, Walker qualified for state as a first-year diver and took 24th (192.90).
“I felt a lot more confident (at sectionals) and a lot less stressed, which I was happy about,” said Walker, not related to coach Walker.
“Having a freshman, both of the divers (qualify) is so exciting. It’s pretty lonely when you’re on the deck all by yourself. It’s nice to have a friend and someone who’s so talented.”