Ana Woods has dealt with a double dose of tendinitis in her shoulder since the start of the high school girls swim season.
But the Evanston junior didn’t let a slower work pace keep her from turning a negative into a positive Saturday at the Central Suburban League South division championship meet held at Glenbrook South.
Woods’ focus on her technique delivered a first place finish in the 100-yard breaststroke race, one of three wins scored by the Wildkits on their way to a second place overall finish in the team standings.
Woods joined teammates Iana Wolff (100-yard butterfly) and Paige Haden (100 backstroke) as gold medal winners and lifted ETHS to second in the team standings with 363 points to 489 for defending champion New Trier. Following in order were Glenbrook South (258.5), Maine South (150.5), Niles West (104) and Waukegan (26).
“I wasn’t really expecting to win,” admitted Woods, who was clocked in 1 minute, 6.16 seconds to beat out three New Trier challengers. “A lot of the other schools are strong in the breaststroke, like New Trier especially. But I also knew from my previous races that I was swimming well today.
“I haven’t been able to work as hard as last year because of my shoulder. I have tendinitis in my bicep and in my rotator cuff, so I’ve been on a little bit of a slower pace in practice. But I was also able to work on my technique a lot more, and that really helped. I also did a lot of (extra) dryland training on my own. And thanks to the physical therapy I’ve done, now it’s a lot better.”
Wildkit head coach Kevin Auger said Woods’ workload hasn’t really changed much, but noted that the focus on technique is particularly important to all of his swimmers.
“Maybe sometimes she doesn’t go quite as hard in practice, but it’s always a plus when you get them to focus on their technique,” Auger said. “It’s gotten significantly better for us this year that way across the board, not just with Ana. We always want them working on their turns and their technique.
“Ana beat some real good swimmers today, including some state finalists. I wouldn’t say her win was a surprise, but she really did a great job.”
Wolff and Haden helped the Kits bounce back from a disappointing start to the meet. Evanston owned the best seed time in the 200-yard medley relay but the foursome of Haden, Woods, Wolfe and Millie Rosen was touched out for the title by a margin of 1:49.26 to 1:49.29 — that’s three hundredths of a second — and Evanston’s other entry in that race was disqualified.
“The thing I’m most proud of is that after that close loss and that DQ that cost us points, we didn’t pack it in. We fought back and had some great swims,” Auger said.
Wolff, who lost a close decision in the butterfly at last year’s CSL South meet, rose to the occasion with a winning time of 58.90 and teammate Maddie Managlia — the No. 6 seed — surged to a surprising second place finish in 59.38 after borrowing some goggles just seconds before the race started.
Both Wildkits turned in season bests despite the fact that Evanston trained through the meet with double practice sessions on Thursday.
“That was a big hurdle for Iana to get over, because it always seemed like she’d finish 2nd against the best swimmers,” Auger pointed out. “That was a good stepping stone for her going forward to the sectional, and the butterfly was a big shift in the momentum for us. We got two very good efforts from Paige and Honore (Collins) after that in the backstroke. Honore fought back after slipping at the start and Paige really seized the moment.”
Haden turned in a winning time of 59.65 to Collins’ 59.99 as the only two competitors to break 1 minute.
“I knew I had a shot today if I could push through and break one minute,” said Haden, a junior. “I’ve really been putting in a lot of work in practice, really pushing it there. I didn’t even swim backstroke until my freshman year, and little by little I think my stroke is getting better. I’ve always been a kick-driven swimmer, but I’ve been working more on pulling the water and focusing on the little things, and that’s helped a lot.
“This is the fastest I’ve ever been un-tapered and breaking one minute was really a big thing for me. Today I just had that extra push.”
Also scoring top six individual finishes for the Wildkits were divers Kate Buddie (3rd with 428.90 points) and Andrea Gouvea (6th with 390.40); Collins, 2nd in the 200 individual medley in 2:10.57; Mia Polinski, 4th in the 500 freestyle in 5:21.00 and 4th in the 200 IM in 2:13.57; Wolff, 4th in the 50 freestyle in 24.82; Woods, 4th in the 100 freestyle in 54.33; Rosen, 5th in the 100 freestyle in 54.91; freshman Katy Donati, 5th in the 500 freestyle in 5:23.69; Ella Fies, 6th in the 100 backstroke in 1:02.11; and Olivia Everhart, 6th in the 100 breaststroke in 1:09.32.