Girls swim and dive season preview notebook

Mundelein’s Erin Falconer (far right) and Jennifer Kordik (second from right) pose with 200-yard freestyle relay teammates Karrie Kozokar and Rachel Robb after winning a state title last year. | File
Mundelein’s Erin Falconer (far right) and Jennifer Kordik (second from right) pose with 200-yard freestyle relay teammates Karrie Kozokar and Rachel Robb after winning a state title last year. | File

MUNDELEIN

The North Suburban Conference was one of the state’s best in girls swimming in 2013. Three of the top eight teams at the state meet — Mundelein, Lake Forest and Stevenson — were from the NSC. The Mustangs were the best of the three, finishing fifth. They have a great shot at a medal this fall with the return of sprinter Erin Falconer.

“[She’s] the top senior recruit in the state,” coach Rahul Sethna said of Falconer, who was runner-up in both the 100- and 200-yard freestyle at last year’s state meet.

Another state returnee is senior Jenn Kordik. She capped a terrific summer with a club state championship in the 100 breaststroke. Kordik finished 18th in the event at the 2013 state meet.

“Jenn has gotten better every year and we want this last state meet to be her best,” Sethna said.
He said Kordik has a good shot at qualifying for state in the 200 individual medley this season.

LIBERTYVILLE

If it wasn’t for the depth of talent in the North Suburban Conference, Libertyville might have cracked the top half in 2013. It has a good chance this fall with five returning state qualifiers.

Libertyville returns three swimmers — sophomore Emma Richert and juniors Staci Herchenbach and Harriet Davies — from its state-qualifying 200-yard freestle relay team. They’ll be joined in the 200 free relay by sophomore Meredith Robbins. She was part of the Wildcats’ state-qualifying 200 medley relay team in 2013.

“They are looking to improve upon last year’s success,” coach Erik Rogers said. “We are hoping to qualify somebody to state in every event.”

VERNON HILLS

Cougars coach Kedric Greenawalt is as excited about this season as any in his seven years at Vernon Hills.

“Our depth has improved substantially, both because a vast majority of our varsity team trained year round and we’ve added several newcomers,” he said. “Thus far, our training has never been better.”

Leading the Cougars are sisters Lilly and Summer Hemesath. Primarily a breaststroker last season, Lilly Hemesath, a sophomore, has expanded her role to include the individual medley. Summer Hemesath, a senior, might be the team’s best freestyler. She also competes in the breaststroke.

Other notable Vernon Hills swimmers are seniors Lisa Cheng, Grace Han and Elena Ochoa, sophomore Ellory Longdon and freshmen Nicole Pinter and Emily Vodovoz.

BUFFALO GROVE

Numbers are high in the Buffalo Grove program, injecting depth and optimism into the 2014 season.

“We are a growing team, having nine divers for the first time since 2009 and a roster of 50,” coach Tom Mroz said. “Exciting times are ahead for the Bison.”

Senior sprinter Sarah Morosan returns after a 2013 season in which she made the state cut in the 50-yard freestyle but just missed in the 100 free. Junior Brina Wahout (individual medley, butterfly) and sophomore Alexa Jedryka (free) are much improved after strong club seasons.

Freshmen Payton Perkinson and Dasha Yermol are expected to make an impact.

LAKE FOREST

Lake Forest fields one of the state’s deepest girls swim and dive squads every year. The Scouts have finished in the top 11 at the state meet in three of the past four seasons. This is the first of a two-year stretch that could be the program’s best since 2003-04, when it won a state title (2003) and finished in third place (2004).

Lake Forest will have two strong lead swimmers in juniors Reilly Lanigan and Haley Nelson. Lanigan is coming off an impressive sophomore year in which she took home a fourth-place medal in the 100-yard butterfly at the state meet. Nelson, a distance swimmer, ended her sophomore season at state with a ninth-place finish in the 500 freestyle.

Juniors Robin Bender, Ella Needler and senior Laura Gottschalk will provide depth in the relay events. The Scouts easily won their 13-team home relay event Saturday.

STEVENSON

Who will end up behind Lake Forest in the North Suburban Conference? That is the question coaches are asking this swim season. Stevenson’s Karl Milkereit has an answer.

“We are looking to be a strong second to Lake Forest,” Milkereit said.

The Patriots’ hopes hinge on another terrific season from senior Shayna Salzman, a state qualifier in the 500-yard freestyle in 2013. Senior Ashlin Ruiz is expected to be a state contender after an outstanding club season with Patriot Aquatic.

Other contributors are expected to be junior Casey Kirby, sophomore Rachel Song and freshman Isabelle Pelka. Stevenson finished in third place at Saturday’s Scout Relays.

Barrington’s Kirsten Jacobsen won state titles in the 200- and 500-yard freestyles last season. | File

Barrington’s Kirsten Jacobsen won state titles in the 200- and 500-yard freestyles last season. | File

BARRINGTON

The burning question for Barrington this season is what will Kirsten Jacobsen do for an encore? As a sophomore in 2013, Jacobson won state titles in the 200- and 500-yard freestyles.

A highlight of her summer club season was a trip to the USA Swimming Junior National Championships. Jacobsen finished in 11th place in the 800 free despite competing against girls three years older.

Barrington brings in an impact freshman, Maggie Emary. Seniors Emma Barnett and Andrea Vega return in hopes of qualifying for a return trip to the state meet in the 400 free relay.

DEERFIELD

Ruby Powell is already one of the most decorated swimmers in Warriors history. The three-time state qualifier in the 100-yard backstroke hopes to make it four years in a row this fall. A good club season with Coho Swim Club has Powell hoping for a state medal this November.

Junior Lauren Kurzydlo also returns. She teamed with Powell to form two legs of Deerfield’s 2013 state-qualifying 200 medley relay squad.

HIGHLAND PARK

Diver Erin Cullather was the Giants’ lone state qualifier in 2013. She returns after an impressive summer club season for Glenbrook Aquatics. Cullather qualified for the USA Diving Junior Region 5 Championships and the Illinois Diving Association Championships, where she earned top-10 finishes in the 1-meter and 3-meter competitions.

Senior Nina Sonneborn, along with juniors Natalie Gelberg and Danni Cole and freshman twins Ari and Noa Cole are expected to lead the swimmers. Highland Park finished seventh at Saturday’s Scout Relays.

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