Three tests in one week and a hard week of practice left Lily Consiglio exhausted by the end of the New Trier Sectional swim meet Saturday, November 6.

Now the Evanston Township High School senior will have a chance to catch her breath before the season’s final exam.

Consiglio’s third-place finish in her specialty, the 100-yard butterfly event, earned an automatic qualifying berth for next weekend’s Illinois High School Association state finals. Consiglio will compete in the state preliminaries next Friday, November 12 at the new site for the finals, the FMC Natatorium in Westmont.

Consiglio was the only Evanston entrant to advance, after leading the Wildkits to a fourth-place finish in the team standings with 163 points. New Trier, which is favored to win the state title next week, claimed the sectional crown with 320 points, ahead of Glenbrook North (211), Loyola Academy (207) and ETHS in the 12-team field.

Senior Jenna Wild recorded nonqualifying fourth-place finishes in the 200 and 500 freestyle – with lifetime best times in both races – but the Wildkits only really came close to advancing in one other race, the 200-yard medley relay. The team of Amanda Nelson, Annika Macy, Consiglio and Wild earned third-place in 1 minute, 48.61 seconds but couldn’t make the established state qualifying cut of 1:47.96.

Evanston also placed fourth in the last race of the day, the 400 freestyle relay, but with a time of 3:37.32 was almost 3 seconds off the qualifying pace. Only first-place finishers in each event earned automatic advancement – the rest had to meet or beat standards established by the IHSA at the start of the season.

ETHS head coach Kevin Auger never used the term “rebuilding” to describe the current season, but the graduation of a talented senior class last year – plus some key injuries to four swimmers the Kits were counting on – caused the veteran head coach to rely on a mix of seniors who weren’t prime-time swimmers before this fall, and a group of younger hopefuls still learning the ropes when it comes to competing and training at the high school level.

Many of those girls turned in lifetime best performances on Saturday – but still fell short.

“This is how I envisioned things might go for us at the start of the season,” Auger said. “But our kids did their best. They came in here and swam some of the fastest times of their lives. I can’t fault their effort. You always wish for more, but you can’t be disappointed with less.

“The medley relay dropped a couple of seconds from last week [1:50 at the Central Suburban League Division meet], they just couldn’t get the last couple of 10ths that they needed to qualify. And most of them [except Consiglio] were shaved and rested fully last week. For them to come back like they did shows that the goal [of reaching state] really meant something to them.”

Consiglio was just glad to survive and advance. She also qualified for state as a freshman and sophomore before the coronavirus pandemic prevented the IHSA from conducting the state finals last year.

“I’m tired. Sometimes it’s hard being a student-athlete,” she said. “I didn’t get much rest this week – I had three hard tests in school – and I think the whole team was swimming tired after the week of practice we had.

“Today could have been better. We’ve had some really strong groups since I’ve been here in the medley, but didn’t make it to state, and we definitely thought we had a shot this year. We were all at different places in our tapers, though, and we were really close to making it.”

Consiglio’s day was definitely a mixed bag for the talented senior. She opened with a strong butterfly leg in the medley relay with a split of 25.39 seconds, but faded to eighth place in the open 50 freestyle despite a season-best performance of 24.83. Glenbrook North’s Nya Robinson won that race in 23.87.

The Evanston senior made up ground after a slow start in the butterfly, actually taking the lead midway through the race, then settled for third behind Alexis Wendel (56.68) and Leslie Wendel (56.72) of New Trier with a time of 57.05.

She also contributed a leadoff leg of 53.97 in the 400 relay, the only ETHS swimmer to break 54 seconds in that effort.

“Lily was good in the medley relay,” Auger said, “but we worked a lot on starts this week in practice and I think that might have been a mistake, because she started to overthink it. She had to make up some distance after her start in the fly, and she worked so hard then she had to scramble at the finish. She’ll get more rest this week and she’ll do her best time next weekend. She’ll go for our team record [55.40 by Laura Wadden in 2003] and a top finals finish.”

“We did work a lot on starts, but that’s something I asked to do,” Consiglio added. “That’s because you need a good start in the 50, and I wanted to be the first one off the blocks. But I also went way too long on my breakout too.”

Wild concluded her ETHS career with solid performances in every race. Besides anchoring the medley in a quick 24.62, she was clocked in 1:56.62 in the 200 freestyle – a half-second faster than her seed time – and came back with a time drop of 3½ seconds in the 500 freestyle, finishing in 5 minutes, 15.48 seconds.

Also contributing top-six individual finishes for the Wildkits were sophomore Abby Romisher, sixth in the 200 freestyle in 1:59.55, and junior Amanda Nelson, sixth in the 100 backstroke in 59.96. Cate Seward, another senior, added sevenths in the 100 freestyle (55.17) and 200 individual medley (2:15.52).

After decades of alternating the state finals between the New Trier and Evanston high school pools, the IHSA decided two years ago to move to the western suburban site. It’s a new pool Consiglio is already familiar with.

“I raced there last February, in a club meet, and a couple of other times too. It’s a fast pool and I really like it. I’ve done really well there,” she said. “Based on the times I’ve done in practice, and with a week of more rest, I want to swim in the low 55s or high 54s. If I can get that school record, I should get to the finals [next Saturday].”

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