The Bulldogs may be small, but they are mighty, at least, according to Riverside-Brookfield swimming coach Todd Fridrych.
"The top 12 swimmers in any given event qualify for State," he said. "The scoring system let's smaller schools in Illinois, like us, get a good chance to advance. We definitely took full advantage. They all turned in their personal bests at the meet; we really performed well."
And advance RB did, surprising many with a recent second-place finish at the Oak Park (Fenwick) Sectional. According to pre-meet times, RB was ranked 70 points behind first-place Fenwick and 24 points behind Oak Park and River Forest. Nevertheless, the Bulldogs knew they could compete. Indeed, after the dust settled RB finished with 280 points, just 24 points behind first-place Fenwick and 12 points ahead of OPRF.
"They gave everything they could and achieved a pretty spectacular result," Fridrych said. "They really swam out of their minds. It truly was a fantastic meet and they are a great group of girls. They were keyed in and I think they utilized their past experience to turn in a great result."
The great results started with RB sophomore Sara Martinek, who had a banner day in the pool, finishing first in the 200-yard individual medley (2:14.95) and second in the 100-yard freestyle (:53.16). Her performance, however, did not surprise her coach in the least.
"Sara's probably our strongest swimmer, mentally," he said. "It is really not a surprise to me she won. She is capable of doing anything she puts her mind to. She finished in the low 20's at State last year, but I know she is capable of going faster and she is more mature this year. From the first day of school we were thinking she could finish top 10 and now that the time has come I believe that more than ever."
Also qualifying for State were junior Natalie Pike, who took first in the 50-yard freestyle (:24.81) and Jordan Jantze, who finished fourth with a time of :25.34. Not only did sophomore Megan St. John take first in the 500 freestyle (5:17.05), she also helped the 400-yard freestyle relay team of Jantze, Martinek, Katherine Pike and Natalie Pike claim first with a time of 3:39.03.
Martha Sitkiewicz, Megan Crowley, Katherine Pike and senior Gail Cervenka will all venture to State as alternates for the Bulldogs.
Now that RB is State-bound, Fridrych is hopeful the overall experience of his team will propel them to a top finish at the meet to be held at Evanston Township High School this weekend.
"Almost all the swimmers that qualified have been in State competition before," he said. "So, I don't think they will get caught up in the aura there. They want to finish in the top 12 and bring home some hardware?"that is the ultimate goal.
"Freshman Claire Walsh and sophomore Megan St. John will be making their first trip, so this will be great for them. I think the tradition at RB is starting to come about. My expectations were high this year and the girls stepped up and did well."