About halfway through the 100-yard backstroke race Saturday at the Burton Aquatic Center, Honore Collins’ competitive juices took over.
The Evanston junior earned a 1-2 finish with teammate Paige Haden, sparking a late meet surge that lifted the Wildkits to their first team title since 2009 at the 9th annual Evanston Invitational.
Under the NISCA (National Interscholastic Swim Coaches Association) established point table that rewards times, not places, Evanston came from behind in the last three events to catch Peoria Notre Dame in the 6-team field. Evanston’s surge concluded with a point total of 4,908 points ahead of Notre Dame (4,893), Oswego (4,327), Germantown of Wisconsin (3,182), Jacobs (2,808) and Addison Trail (2,468).
Two of the state’s premier programs, Loyola Academy and Lake Forest, didn’t participate in this year’s meet due to a calendar conflict because of the Jewish holiday.
Swimming in the lane next to her teammate — both Collins and Haden were seeded behind Germantown’s Skye Beckes — Collins cranked into a higher gear when she glanced over her shoulder and noticed that Haden was just an eyelash ahead of her.
Collins closed hard and won with a season-best time of 59.55 seconds, while Haden placed second in 1:00.38, also a season best. Evanston’s only other individual win in a meet that rewards team depth came from diver Kate Budde, who totaled a personal best 395.45 points to easily rule her specialty.
ETHS also claimed top honors in the 200 medley relay behind the unit of Collins, Ana Woods, Iana Wolff and Millie Rosen. They were timed in 1:56.48.
“Paige and I are really close in our (practice) workouts and she beat me in our intra-squad meet,” said Collins, who also contributed a second place finish in the 200 individual medley in 2:12.02. “But I’m a competitive person and I really wanted to win. Yeah, I like to win.
“Paige was a lot farther behind me freshman year, but now she’s getting better and better every year. I like that friendly competition. I’m getting better about my splits, about coming back harder in the second half of the race this year. I’m so excited right now because I didn’t think I could go that fast. And I was a whole second and a half faster in the IM than I was last year, too.”
“Honore and Paige were neck and neck and that’s the way it is in practice, too,” said ETHS head coach Kevin Auger. “They were at 29.22 and 29.25 (splits) and when I saw that I knew it would be a great race for us, because those two don’t die (at the end).
“They saw an opportunity today and they took advantage of it. They remind me of when (past stars) Kacy Reams and Julia Quinn were swimming together. Even though they always wanted to beat each other, they were able to feed off of each other in races. Honore and Paige are two very talented kids and we want to be the best backstroke duo in the state of Illinois.
“Honore had a good swim in the IM and Paige (second in 2:02.37 in the 100 freestyle) overtook three kids in the last 25 yards in the 200. She really showed a lot of grit today.”
The Wildkits outscored Notre Dame in the 100 breaststroke and 400 freestyle relay to clinch the team title. Woods (2nd in 1:07.53), Olivia Everhart (5th in 1:13.20) and Payton Gibson (6th in 1:13.79) dominated the breaststroke and Evanston placed 2-6 in the last race, with the 400 team of Wolff, Haden, Rosen and Collins earning runnerup honors behind Notre Dame with a 3:43.67 clocking. That was almost a full second quicker than their seed time.
Also placing in the top five were Woods, 2nd in the 100 freestyle in 54.84; diver Andrea Gouvea, 3rd with 343.40 points; Wolff, 4th in the 50 freestyle in 25.43 and 4th in the 100 butterfly in 59.92; Rosen, 4th in the 100 freestyle and 5th in the 50 freestyle in 26.02; Mia Polinski, 4th in the 500 freestyle in 5:37.32; and the 200 freestyle relay quartet of Woods, Haden, Maddie Managlia and Julia Fiorino, 4th in 1:44.89.
“It’s way more fun to win at the end that way,” noted Auger. “It’s really good to see what they can do when you put the pressure on them like that, because that will help us down the road. We had a lot of season best times today — and we really didn’t do anything special to get there. To a person, they got up and swam season best times and I was quite happy to see that.”