After suffering a dislocated shoulder not once — not twice — not three times, but FOUR times at the end of the high school water polo season last spring, Honore Collins finally gave in to the unwelcome idea of surgery to correct the problem.
But the Evanston senior never gave up. And her comeback story continued in compelling fashion Saturday at the Glenbrook North Sectional swim meet.
Not even a three full months after undergoing surgery for a torn labrum, Collins has returned to the lineup and contributed to two school relay records and also qualified for the Illinois High School Association state finals in the 50-yard freestyle event.
Coach Kevin Auger’s Wildkits earned 9 individual qualifying spots and will send all 3 relay teams to next Friday’s state prelims at New Trier High School. As a team, ETHS placed 3rd with 217 points in the 13-team field behind Loyola Academy (268) and New Trier (261.5).
Senior Iana Wolff scored Evanston’s only individual first place finish, ruling the 100-yard butterfly in 56.91 seconds, and freshman Lucy Hogan shattered her own school diving record en route to a 2nd place finish with 522.10 points. But it was Collins who stole the spotlight, just one week after she competed in a full load of four events for the first time this fall.
The school’s current record holder in the 200 individual medley, Collins can’t swim the breaststroke, butterfly or backstroke without risking further damage to her shoulder. So she shifted her focus to freestyle races and showed Saturday that she could push the Wildkits back to the elite level in both the 200 medley and 200 freestyle relays.
The Kits might have advanced in both races anyway. But Collins was determined to swim through the pain and help in any way she could.
She did more than just help at GBN. She swam the freestyle leg of the medley in 23.62 seconds, combining with Wolff, Paige Haden and Ana Woods for a winning time of 1:44.56. That effort wiped out the previous school mark of 1:45.08 by Jane Munro, Kristina Walsh, Grace Borchers and Anne Frigo back in 2007.
In the 200 freestyle race, the ETHS foursome of Woods, Collins, Mary Claire D’Arrigo and Wolff blazed to a school record time of 1:36.29, breaking the previous mark of 1:36.81 by Amy Reams, Sara Hostalet, Jenny Kruse and Laura Wadden in 2004. Collins turned in the second fastest split at 23.70, one tick behind Wolff’s 23.69. But the current group had to settle for 3rd place Saturday as both New Trier (1:36.13) and Loyola (1:36.22) turned on the after-burners and also broke the pool record.
Collins claimed fourth in the open 50 in 24.27 and turned in the quickest leg (52.46) on the 400 freestyle relay team that advanced with a time of 3:34.78, beating the established IHSA qualifying standard.
“I’m not going to say I’m impressed with myself, but I am a little surprised at the times I had today,” Collins said. “I really had no idea how I’d go today. I’d say I’m about 85 percent right now. I still get so tired, and sometimes my shoulder burns.
“I didn’t want to miss this season. I’m supposed to be on all 3 relays and I wanted to come back for my team. I thought I’d come back. I never really doubted it. And I honestly think I can go faster next week. I think we can win the medley (at State), and I think other people are underestimating the 200 relay, too.”
Collins tried physical therapy in a bid to avoid surgery during the summer, but finally went under the knife on August 19. “Now even my doctor is impressed by how fast I’ve come back,” she grinned.
“I didn’t push her at all. It was 100 percent on her to tell us what she could do, and when she could do it,” Auger said. “Part of trying to rebound from something like that is that you’re hesitant to really test it. But Honore didn’t hesitate.
“I haven’t known many swimmers who have come back from an injury like that, certainly not this quickly. But the big thing for Honore was that she didn’t get down about it. She could’ve easily given up — and she didn’t. She just did what she could do, until she was ready to do more.
“We weren’t sure she could swim four events until last week (at the Central Suburban League South division meet). The other kids are certainly excited to have her back, not just for the points but just to have their friend back. And she’s one more leader for us, someone who can say ‘guys, I came back, nothing is ever that dire.’ “
Joining Collins as individual qualifiers are Haden, 4th in the 100 backstroke in 58.55; Woods, 4th in the 100 breaststroke in 1:05.15; D’Arrigo, 5th in the 50 freestyle in 24.45; Maddy Managlia, 5th in the 100 backstroke in 58.74; and Olivia Everhart, 8th in the 100 breaststroke in 1:07.14.
Haden and sophomore Clio Hancock placed 3-5 in the individual medley but couldn’t crack the qualifying standard.
Wolff’s gold medal performance in the butterfly broke the GBN pool record of 57.33 by Azra Avdic of Niles North in 2013. The senior standout turned in her best career time despite some difficulty on the turns and earned one of the top clockings in the statewide sectionals held Saturday.
“We got everything we could have wanted out of this meet,” Auger pointed out. “This is a quality pool, and I think the times reflected that today.”
Both Hogan and Evanston teammate Andrea Gouvea figure to earn at-large diving berths out of what turned out to be the highest scoring field in the state. Hogan’s 522.10 points placed 2nd behind rival Jessie Creed of New Trier (548.70) and broke her own record of 501.15, while Gouvea’s fifth place score of 436.45 was a personal best for the senior for 11 dives.
Hogan is only the second diver in ETHS history to qualify for the state finals as a freshman. The other one? Three-time state champion (and ETHS Hall of Famer) Lona Foss.
Hogan actually scored two rare 10s — on her sixth dive of the day, a reverse pike — but still couldn’t catch long-time club rival Creed.
“I did have some 10s at the freshman conference meet, but it’s always exciting to get them, because the judges don’t throw them out there that often,” Hogan said. “It’s exciting that I broke the school record because that hadn’t been done since 1979, and I’d like to break every single record I can. I just want to do the best I can.”
Both Hogan and Creed compete for the Chicago Diving Club and figure to wage a 3-way battle for the state title next weekend with Naperville Central’s Sydney Dusel. Dusel defeated both first-year divers at the Evanston Invitational.
Hogan has her eye on Dusel but knew before she ever competed in a high school meet that Creed will offer the biggest challenge to her personally over the next four years.
“From club, I kinda knew what the competition would be coming into the season,” said Hogan. “I expected one of us to win, and one of us to finish second. I was nervous the entire meet today. Some of the boys in my club have told me that I won’t do that well (at State) because I’m only a freshman, but I think they’re just being mean. My goal is the top three.”