Northwest Suburbs' girls swimming and diving: Top talent, young talent ready to excel at state meet
Seniors, juniors, sophomores, freshmen.
All the grade classes for the Northwest Suburbs will be well represented as top competitors at the girls state swimming and diving championship meet, being held Friday and Saturday, at the FMC Natatorium in Westmont, which is hosting the event for the first time.
Juniors looking to make waves at FMC include Hersey's Maggie Papanicholas, who swam 1:01.46 to take first place at the Barrington sectional in the 100-yard breaststroke, and Michelle Kaner from Maine West.
"Michelle set our school record in the 100 backstroke at sectionals (at Downers Grove South in the time of 55.57) this past Saturday," said Maine West coach Ryan Claus. "She's very talented, and has been working really hard this season. Michelle is a leader in our program, and I'm excited to see how she swims at state"
Also on the approach for the 11th graders is Jacki Stadler of Glenbrook South, who comes in to the meet as the reigning diving champ of last Saturday's New Trier sectional.
It'll be the second overall appearance for Stadler, as she qualified two years ago as a freshman, the last time the official state series was held.
"I was pretty confident, "she said about the sectional meet. "I knew our team would do strongly, and myself and (senior) Maddie O'Mera took first and third. It was good preparation for state."
Stadler said that she was a longtime gymnastics participant, but got into diving about four years ago and added that she "wound up loving it a lot more."
"It's the connection you have with your teammates," said Stadler, "and being in the water is amazing."
As far as her outlook for this weekend's state meet, she stated: m not too worried about my placement. I want to go out and do my best, be proud of my dives, make my coaches proud and be there with my teammates."
For the sophomore class, Katie Kuehn of Fremd has excelled. Kuehn will be in the top group in the 50 Freestyle, where she posted a 23.25 qualifying time at Barrington.
"Katie is in excellent position heading in," said Vikings coach Andrew Kittrell. "As a fierce competitor, she challenges herself to rise to the occasion. It's outstanding that she's already in this spot as a sophomore, and I love coaching Katie. She is so fun and receptive to feedback, and exudes terrific mental toughness."
Nina Mollin of Schaumburg will lead a strong senior contingent into Westmont for the final meet of the year.
She'll be a medalist favorite after winning the 200 Individual Medley (2:00.75) and the 500 Freestyle (4:57.10) at the Downers South sectional.
Mollin was second in state in the 200 IM as a sophomore, and another of the class of 2022 who put up a stellar sectional mark was Mollie Lumsden of Hersey, first at Barrington in the 100 back at 56.61.
Other top senior athletes who advanced include Lilian Reader of Barrington, in the 200 Free and the 500 Free, Ally Blumenfeld of Hersey, who earned the third best qualifying mark in diving, and Madison Dohrn from Schaumburg, the No. 2 seed in the 100 Back.
Reader's 200 Free time was 1:51.67 at Barrington while Dohrn, who will also compete in the 200 Free, posted a 55.43 in winning the DGS 100 back. Dohrn's championship time in the sectional 200 free was 1:53.84.
On the team side, Hersey goes into the weekend with momentum after a victory at the Barrington sectional; the Fillies were second, and Schaumburg finished runner-up at DGS.
Barrington's sectional champion 400 Freestyle relay quartet, most likely consisting of Reader and classmate Emily Bucaro, along with Jenna Kerr and Lauren Holman, will be looking to make an appearance on the podium.
Individually, Kerr, a junior, swam extremely well at the Barrington sectional, earning second place in the 50 Free at 23.46 and winning the 100 Free (time of 50.65).
Freshman-wise, Que Genet of Fremd qualified for state in diving in her first year of prep competition, and is "enormously talented," according to Kittrell.
"She could absolutely qualify for the final on Saturday," added Kittrell, "with her skills and her height off the board."
Vikings senior Ella Gray will be in the field as well, and Kittrell said that "these two young women are a pleasure to coach, and (diving coach) Donna O'Brien has put them in a terrific place to have a great meet. We can't wait for this weekend."