Girls swimming: Cary-Grove shows its depth to win invitational
Cary-Grove might have come up short in first-place medals Saturday, but the overall work of the Trojans proved too much to overcome for the rest of the seven-team girls swimming field at the Woodstock North Co-op Invitational.
Junior Kelsey Harmsen had the only first-place swim for Cary-Grove, yet the Trojans' 585 points still were more than enough to beat Huntley (571) and Crystal Lake South co-op (529) for the team title.
The Trojans were in contention for the top spot in virtually every event, capturing seven runner-up and eight third-place medals and showcasing their extreme depth ahead of next month's Fox Valley Conference Invite.
"Our team works insanely hard and we're all very supportive of each other, which I think is insanely helpful," said senior Maddie Dolezal, who was second in the 200-yard freestyle, third in the 500 free and part of the Trojans' 400 free relay runner-up, along with Lizzy Fournier, Harmsen and Molly Gilbert.
"We had a big cheering squad at the end of the lane every event. No girls were down, and we were all just hyping each other up. Everyone swam their best, and that's all that we can ask for."
Harmsen's win in the 100 junior free was the Trojans only victory in 20 events. The meet, which featured six of seven FVC teams, was divided into freshman, sophomore, junior and senior events for the 50 free and 100 free. Relays were divided into freshman/sophomore and varsity, with points in every event counting toward the final team scores.
"The goal was to just come together as a team and to perform as best as they could," Cary-Grove coach Scott Lattyak said. "They swam everything for each other, and that is really what shined for them today. We tried to get them those opportunities and they just came forward and did a fantastic job."
Crystal Lake South co-op, which also is made up of swimmers from Crystal Lake Central and Prairie Ridge, had the most first-place finishes with eight.
Sophomore Avery Watson won the 200 IM and 100 butterfly, freshman Abby Uhl won the 200 free, Mackenzie Resch won the 100 sophomore free and junior Maddy Uhl won the 100 backstroke.
The Gators also swept all three varsity relays. Maddy Uhl, Abi Zelikman, Watson and Abby Uhl were first in the 200 medley relay; Maddy Uhl, Maggie Noftz, Resch and Abby Uhl placed first in the 200 free relay; and Resch, Maddy Uhl, Abby Uhl and Watson won the 400 free relay.
"I think overall as a team, we did really good today," said Watson, who was co-FVC Newcomer of the Year last year. "Having a bunch of teams together was a lot of fun -- everyone is cheering and stuff. It was just easier to swim fast with that. But I think we have a lot more to prove."
Saturday's meet was the first to feature multiple teams for many swimmers after last year was mostly held to duals because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
There also was no FVC Invite last year, which often is the biggest and most exciting event for area swimmers outside of sectionals and state. The FVC Invite is scheduled Oct. 18 at Woodstock North.
"Conference my freshman year was my favorite part of the season because the energy level is so much higher," Maddy Uhl said. "This meet kind of gave me the same feeling. Not having conference last year took a toll on us as athletes. I feel like this year, all of us girls are going to bring it. Our energy is way up there. I feel like we're all going to have a lot of fun."
Host Woodstock North co-op had three first-place finishes. Hannah Blaksley placed first in the 50 senior free and 100 senior free and Haley Halsall was first in the 500 free.
Blaksley, last year's FVC Most Valuable Swimmer and the co-Newcomer of the Year with Watson, said she is still looking to drop a lot of time.
"I'm not where I was at last year, but it's still early," she said. "I was hoping to drop a little bit more, just to get closer to my best times from last season, but I'm still happy with my first-place medals. This is only meet No. 4. I'm hoping to break some records. I would really like a high 23 and a high 53 but we'll see. Those are my goals."
Dundee-Crown freshman Maggie Nowak was first in the 50 freshman free and runner-up in the 100 butterfly to Watson, who she is familiar with outside of high school.
"I'm excited to get back here Wednesday because I know I can swim much better than I did today," Nowak said. "I was really happy to be swimming against Avery. She's a real amazing swimmer and I'm really inspired by her."
Dundee-Crown junior Ali Fitzgerald had a pair of first-place finishes in the 100 breaststroke and 50 free junior. Woodstock North co-op's Bella Borta took first in 50 sophomore free, and Dundee-Crown's Mia Dzik was first in the 100 freshman free.
Huntley's Abby DeVries, Caitlyn Gooden, Ella Young and Ashley Garrard were second in the 200 medley relay, while Cora Chesney, Jillian Cherwin, Julia Smitendorf and Garrard were second in the 200 free relay. Cherwin was second in the 500 free, DeVries was second in the 100 backstroke, and Gooden was second in the 100 breaststroke.
Woodstock North co-op finished fifth, Dundee-Crown was sixth and Jacobs co-op was seventh.