Lucy Hogan is on a career path that might lead her to a berth in the Olympics some day.
But even if it doesn’t, the Evanston sophomore has already proved she can overcome a detour or two.
Hogan continued her comeback from a severe back injury that put her on the shelf as a competitor for four months on Saturday, chalking up a 2nd place finish in the diving competition at the Central Suburban League South division championship meet held at New Trier.
It took a second straight conference record performance by New Trier rival Jessie Creed to deny Hogan the title. But Hogan’s ability to overcome adversity places her in the winner’s circle, anyway, even though she was outscored by Creed by a 502.90 to 470.75 margin.
Hogan’s ability to shake off the competitive rust has surfaced after she missed 4 months with a stress fracture in her back, and was held back another week to keep the pain away and rest during the current high school season.
But there’s no holding back the relentless and determined ETHS sophomore, who pronounced herself ready to do more damage — only on the diving board — over the next two weeks as the defending Illinois High School Association state runnerup.
“Four months is a long time to be out, and really, I’m still coming back from the injury,” Hogan said. “I still have work to do to get back to where I was. I lost a lot of time, and diving is all about the repetitions you get every day in practice. I’m still four months behind when it comes to reps.
“It doesn’t hurt now. But some of my dives are not as good as they could be. I won’t lower my expectations for the next couple of weeks, though. I’m just going to work as hard as I can so I can do my best. Doing my best at State means a lot to me. I’d like to go out and win it, but I really just want to do my best no matter what else happens.”
Hogan spent one month of that rehabilitation with her back in a brace. “They wouldn’t let me do a lot of stuff when I came back in April, but two weeks after I finally got cleared I won the regional and then I got a first and second at the Zones,” Hogan noted.
She qualified for Nationals in Georgia in August on 1-meter, 3-meter and tower and her best finish was a 10th place on tower. After a brief respite, she started training again but had to take another week off when the pain got to be too much for her.
Evanston’s coaching staff took a conservative and cautious approach during Hogan’s comeback, knowing that her future is bright beyond the opportunity to collect medals at the next three IHSA state finals.
“We needed to let her recover slowly, and we need to keep her safe,” said diving coach Aaron Melnick. “She’s really come a long way when you look at all she’s had to go through. Today her required dives were right on, and now she just needs to fine tune and polish her optionals.
“I wasn’t surprised how well she did today because I know her ability to focus in meets. When it comes to meet time, she knows what to do. She’s doing what’s right for her, even if it’s not where she expected to be by the end of this year. This is not just about State for her. There’s a bigger picture for Lucy than that, and whatever we can do to help her reach a higher pinnacle is what’s important.
“I thought Lucy was just outstanding today. She hit dives that she doesn’t normally hit, and that was the best two and one-half front dive I’ve seen her do all season.”
Hogan’s 2nd place finish helped the Wildkit girls score a surprising runnerup spot in the team standings behind team champion New Trier. The Trevians piled up 507 points to dominate the competition, but ETHS outscored Glenbrook South — a team they lost to during the dual meet portion of the season — by a huge 336 to 253 margin to place 2nd. Niles North (131), Maine South (119) and Niles West (77) rounded out the field.
Evanston recorded season bests by every single swimmer in the competition, where schools are allowed 3 entrants per event instead of the usual 2 for an invitational meet.
“We had a ton of season bests today and we had a lot of lifetime bests, too,” said ETHS head coach Kevin Auger. “We really flipped the script on GBS after losing to them in the dual meet, and I think that’s the best 2nd place finish I’ve ever had.
“We had a lot of girls fighting for spots on the sectional team (next Saturday at Deerfield) and that competition really brought out the best in them. Now we’re going to be dancing around those (state qualifying) cuts and we’ve put ourselves into the position we wanted to be in going into the sectional.”
Evanston’s surge past Glenbrook South began with a 4th place finish by Mary Claire D’Arrigo, who beat out two GBS swimmers seeded ahead of her with a best time of 25.16 seconds in the 50-yard freestyle. From that point on — including an unexpected 5-6-7 performance by Meredith Long, Halley Sneed and Kathleen Shotwell in the 500 freestyle — the Kits outscored the Titans the rest of the way.
Junior standouts Clio Hancock and Katy Donati took big steps toward the state qualifying standards in a pair of races Saturday. Hancock earned a 3rd in the 100 butterfly (1:00.88) and 5th in the 200 individual medley (2:12.71), and both times were less than 3 seconds off the IHSA cuts.
Donati captured a pair of 4th’s in both the 100 freestyle (54.60) and 200 freestyle (1:59.55) and neither swimmer will be fully shaved and tapered until next week.
“I was hoping to break one minute in the fly today, but I’ll take it,” said Hancock. “My goal today was to be where I was at the sectional last year, so I’m really happy with the way I swam. Today is a good reassurance for me to know that I’m on the right track for State. It’s a good indication of what’s to come.”
Senior Kate Grossman exceeded her seeds in both individual races, taking 6th in the IM (2:17.36) and 5th in the 100 breaststroke (1:09.69). Also contributing top 6 individual finishes for the Wildkits were Elena Kovachevich, 4th in the backstroke in 1:01.22; Grace Prendergast, 4th in the breaststroke in 1:09.59; Long, 5th in the 200 freestyle in 2:00.04; Emma Clay-Barbour, 6th in the butterfly in 1:02.37; Anna Clemson, 6th in the 100 freestyle in 56.71; and Hana Weber, 6th in the breaststroke in 1:09.85.
The Wildkits added 3rd place performances in the 200 medley and 400 freestyle races and claimed 4th in the 200 freestyle relay.