Girls swimming and diving: Prospect having fun, producing positive results

By Bill Esbrook
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 9/18/2021 8:45 PM

Prospect girls swimming coach Alfonso Lopez says that his team has developed a mantra that helps them along during the season.

"Don't forget the way we approached last season," he tells his team. "Apply that to this year, have fun, don't get down on yourselves because of bad swims or bad days.


"Get to work, but also, enjoy yourself and stay relaxed. That's been good for us and we've shown really good results because of that."

It proved true at Saturday's Knights-hosted Battle Royale, as Prospect finished second behind Highland Park.

The Giants had a score of 279, while the Knights posted 225, and Maine South was third at 195.

"We're looking forward to the rest of the season, and our goals are the same as the start of the season," said Lopez. "Last year, we tried to forget about all the stressful things (due to COVID-19) and really focus on what makes it fun -- because we weren't guaranteed anything from week to week."

Leading the charge for the Knights was Jolana Babjak. Babjak won the 100 fly in the time of 1:02.89, and was second in the 200 free at 2:06.279.

"She's a workhorse for us," said Lopez of Babjak. "She pretty much does most events, and she had a really nice day today in individual and relay splits. Jolana is a senior and a four-year varsity competitor, and she's steady. She works extremely hard and gets results.

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"Today she had really nice times, even though she was pretty fatigued overall. She just persevered and pushed through. I'm really happy for her."

Maine South (1:56.87) was second in the 200 medley relay behind Sophia Szymanski, Chloe Bai, Grace Kopf and Leah Rummelhoff.

Szymanski of the Hawks won the 200 IM in the time of 2:12.03, while Grace Dembowski from the Knights was runner-up in the 200 individual medley and the 100 free.

Szymanski also was victorious in the 100 back at 58.81, the Hawks Chloe Bai was second in the 100 breaststroke, while Yugene Shin of Palatine was second in the 100 back.

Prospect's relay team of Babjak, Nora Wagner, Faith O'Grady, and Dembowski finished second in the 400 free, just falling short to Highland Park.


"Yugene is a sophomore," said Pirates coach Katie Kupka, "and she's obviously one of our more experienced swimmers. She competes with the Glenbrook club team in the offseason, and she's had success both last year and this year -- she's very talented. She definitely has a great future in the conference and we'd love to see her make it to state this year. She's a diligent worker, and we're looking for exciting things from her."

Palatine also won the diving title at the Battle Royale, with Riley Strahl finishing first with a mark of 339.20. Caitlin Widawski of Rolling Meadows was just behind at 336.45, good for second.

"Our divers are exceptional," said Kupka. "One of the big reasons for that is coach Curt Bendell, who is one of the top if not the top diving coach in the state. He's a longtime coach, he's well respected, and he produces results every year."

"Riley and (teammate) Emily Ziemba are just so good. Just recently, they both broke the Schaumburg High School pool record, a record that had stood for 40 years. Riley got the higher score so she has the record, but both those kids are fun to watch for sure."

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