Girls swimming and diving: Hersey's Blumenfeld dives into school history with state title; Barrington takes 2nd
Ally Blumenfeld had a dog day afternoon on Saturday.
But the day had nothing to do with oppressive heat.
Blumenfeld, a Hersey senior diver, pointed to fond memories of her late beagle, Melvin, as significant factors en route to what she accomplished at the girls swimming and diving state meet at FMC Natatorium in Westmont.
"I imagined Melvin running around, all happy and excitable, and hugging me after a practice," Blumenfeld, a big Snoopy fan, said. "It helped me; it really did. It helped me remain calm before my dives."
Blumenfeld certainly gave Huskies Nation something to bark about, after she topped the diving field with a 471-point effort to become the first state champion (swimming or diving) in program history and highlight her team's ninth-place finish (50 points) -- another program-best feat.
Hersey diving coach Tom Schwab's star athlete merited a trio of 9s on her 10th and penultimate dive, an inward, to widen the gap between her and the rest of the impressive finalists, including fantastic Fremd freshman Que Genet (9th, 433.25) and Rolling Meadows junior Caitlin Widawski (12th, 403.35).
Runner-up Kate Mitchell, a Lincoln-Way East senior and Iowa State University recruit (like Blumenfeld), finished with 461.1 points.
"Phenomenal," Schwab said. "Ally kept it together, all while moving her game up a notch on each of her three dives today. I believe she's the best gamer, in any sport, in all of District 214. Her physics, her kinesiology, her mechanics, her visualization ... outstanding, all of them."
Barrington also unleashed its considerable talent on Saturday, amassing 100 points to tie Hinsdale Central for runner-up honors to champion New Trier's 182 points. The Fillies matched Barrington's 2006 squad for the best state finish in program history behind seven top-five showings.
Barrington senior Lilian Reader led the way, touching second in the 500-yard freestyle (4:51.5) and helping the 400 free relay (with senior anchor Emily Bucaro and junior Jenna Kerr and Lauren Holman) silver in 3:25.32.
"What my swimmers did on Friday (in the state preliminaries) to get here today, to reach as many championship heats as they did ... it still blows my mind," awestruck Fillies coach and former Fremd swimmer Alex Mikolajewski said.
Reader also motored to third place in the 200 free (1:49.34) and helped the 200 free unit (with Kerr, Holman and Bucaro) place ninth in 1:35.75. Kerr's fifth-place 23.37 in the 50 free and fourth-place 50.72 in the 100 free were worth a combined 21 team points, and Bucaro added a pair of fifth-place swims, clocking a 1:51.18 in the 200 free and a 4:59.16 in the 500 free.
"I didn't expect this, no," Reader said of the team's high finish. "But I certainly hoped for it; we all did."
"Our coach -- we call him Coach 'Bear' -- is the best," Bucaro said. "He pushes us, encourages us. I'd never seen him jump as often as he did (Friday night).
"We loved seeing him get that excited."
Schaumburg coach Tim O'Grady savored his Saxons Saturday. And why not? Senior Nina Mollin silvered in the 200 IM (2:01.83), and classmate Madison Dohrn matched that medal collection with a personal-best 54.98 in the 100 backstroke to punctuate the team's 13th-place effort (41 points).
Mollin, who will likely study biochemistry and swim at the University of Toronto, bowed to electric Kaneland sophomore Leah Hayes (state-record 1:56.38) in the 200 IM and contributed a sixth-place swim in the 500 free (5:01.66).
"The ultimate athlete," O'Grady said of his program's multiple-record holder. "It's funny. Nina is the friendliest swimmer on deck, and then she turns into this fierce competitor as soon as she gets up on that block."
Dohrn, another Iowa State-bound student-athlete, was thrilled to have achieved a sub-55 in the 100 back. She then lauded her mother, Stephanie, for signing her up for swim lessons in junior high.
"My mom," a smiling Dohrn said, "wanted me to swim to get rid of my energy. It was a good decision."
Dohrn, Mollin and freshmen Annabel Banicz and Zuzanna Krasnicki collaborated for an 11th-place 1:46.34 in the 200 medley relay, and Dohrn, Mollin, Krasnicki and senior Danielle Alley combined legs for a 12th-place 3:34.19 in the 400 relay.
Back to Hersey. The Huskies last medaled in a relay at state in 1982, Hersey coach Dick Mortensen noted. Saturday he watched his 200 medley relay (seniors Molly Lumsden and Ashley Oiler and juniors Maggie Papanicholas and Brooke Martin) take fifth in 1:44.86.
Papanicholas sped to runner-up honors in the 100 breaststroke (1:01.48) to good friend and New Trier senior Kaelyn Gridley (1:00.13). The pair of swim darts competed at the U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials in Nebraska last summer.
Lumsden placed 12th in the 100 back (56.72).
"Today, as opposed to (Friday prelims), was all about enjoying what they earned," a proud Mortensen said. "Such a great meet for us. And for the MSL. Our conference has never performed this well at this meet as it did today."
Fremd sophomore Katie Kuehn churned to eighth place (23.63) and a seventh-place tie (51.26) in the 50 free and 100 free events, respectively.
Maine West junior Michelle Kaner pulled to fourth place in the 100 back (56-flat), two places better than her result in the event at the 2019 state meet. The only Maine West Warrior to have finished higher than Kaner in a state swimming event was Heather Ertel, who bronzed in the 50 free at the 1986 meet.