Evanston’s girls swim team dropped a depth charge on the competition Saturday at the Burton Aquatic Center.
Strong performances in all 3 relays – including a 2-4 finish in the final event of the day, the 400-yard freestyle relay – sparked the Wildkits to a surprising second place finish at the Central Suburban League South division championship meet.
Coach Kevin Auger’s squad didn’t score a single first place finish, but racked up enough points – 297 – to trail only powerful New Trier (491) in the team standings. Overall, the Kits tied Glenbrook North for second place in the division standings when dual meet results were included.
Both Evanston’s A and B team entries in the 400 relay moved up from their places based on pre-meet seeding, enough to beat out Glenbrook North with a total of 249 points. Monroe Stroth, Amanda Nelson, Cameron Corbett and Abby Romisher combined for a second place time of 3 minutes, 40.74 seconds, and the foursome of Nina Kaiser, Malia Schoonyoung, Ainslie Stoolmaker and Georgia Stoolmaker contributed a fourth in 3:49.37.
The Wildkits also counted a third place in the 200 medley relay (Nelson, Karolien Van Mieghem, Oona O’Brien and Stroth) and a thrd in the 200 freestyle relay (Corbett, Stroth, Van Mieghem, Romisher) on their climb past Glenbrook North (249), Glenbrook South (152), Maine South (141) and Niles West (63).
“We didn’t have any gold medals. We did it with depth,” said Evanston Township High School’s Auger. “We got up today and beat some girls that we didn’t beat in the dual meets. And we had eight swimmers with lifetime bests [splits] in the 400 relay. That’s what you call depth!
“I’m really excited about our relays, especially the last one. This is a long day [four- hour meet] and historically we start out with a bang, but don’t end up with one. We talked about being ready to go and emphasized that we expect their first race to be great – and their last race to be great. I think they took that to heart.”
New Trier dominated the meet with victories in 10 of the 12 events. Glenbrook South took first place in diving and in the 100 butterfly to avoid a clean sweep by the Trevians.
Most of the Wildkit swimmers were fully rested and tapered, with the exception of State hopefuls Nelson and Romisher, so those time drops weren’t totally unexpected by the ETHS staff. And even those two did score significant drops for the hosts.
Individually, Evanston counted top-six finishes from Romisher, second in the 500 freestyle (5:18.64) and third in the 200 freestyle (1:58.93); Nelson, fourth in the 100 backstroke (59.46) and sixth in the 200 individual medley (2:16.18); Stroth, fourth in the 50 freestyle (25.47); Corbett, fifth in the 200 freestyle (1:59.88) and fifth in the 100 freestyle (55.58); Ainslie Stoolmaker, fifth in the 50 freestyle (25.52); and Malia Schoonyoung, sixth in the 500 freestyle (5:29.51).
Romisher cut nearly 8 seconds off her previous best time in the 500 and chopped off 4 seconds in the 200 freestyle. She also turned in the fastest split in the 400 relay with an effort of 54.71, slightly quicker than Stroth (55.05), Nelson (55.73) and Corbett (55.25) in that finale.
But Romisher, a junior, knows she’ll have to be on her game again at the sectional meet if she is to approach the Illinois High School Association state qualifying standards in the 500 (5:09.03) and 200 (1:54.88) when fully tapered and rested.
“I feel a lot better than I did at the beginning of the season. I feel good about everything, and I hope to continue that,” Romisher said. “It’s all about pushing myself all the way through to the end and see where that goes. I just have to continue to keep swimming smarter.
“My focus has been on the 500 most of the year, but I’ve learned to swim the 200 better now. I’m starting stronger and I’ve learned I can go out fast and still finish fast.”
Auger, a former distance swimmer himself, believes Romisher has more time drops in her for the end of the season.
“This was a stepping stone to next week for Abby and Amanda,” he said. “Abby’s been dancing around that state cut for the 500, but she’ll need to drop a lot next week, and that 200 today was her lifetime best. Getting those time drops at the end is different for different swimmers and the preparation is different. But I don’t ever believe in swimming slow. And if you’re trying to get to State, you’re going to be half rested for the sectional. You just can’t hold them back.
“It’s the same thing for Amanda. She’ll get a little rest – and swim even faster next week. She had a great meet today, and both of them got excited and really threw down lifetime bests on that last relay.”