Girls swimming ties for second at state

Coach and athletes motivated following last year's canceled meet, loss of teammate

The Hinsdale Central High School girls swim and dive team earned its best finish since 2008 at the IHSA State Championships Nov. 12-13, earning 100 points and tying with Barrington for second place.

New Trier won the meet at FMC Natatorium in Westmont with 182 points.

The Red Devils were led by junior Kit Schneider, who placed first in the 50-yard freestyle with a time of 22.98 (see Page 58 for results) and who swam the first leg of all three relays, which placed second (200-yard medley), fifth (22-yard freestyle) and sixth (400-yard freestyle).

"We all worked super hard, so I really wanted my team to succeed," Schneider said. "I wasn't just nervous for my own races - I was nervous for everyone else. We were shooting for top three to place, so we were all really nervous."

Schneider's first swim of the day, the 200-yard medley relay, was a strong start.

"I think it was just the energy after that race was really good and it was positive, and I think going into my 50 free it helped me ... not to be too nervous for what was going ahead," she said. "I knew deep down I had it in me. I just had to want it the most."

Coach Bob Barber described Schneider as a special athlete.

"We knew she was capable of being probably a top three finisher and on a special day, win it," he said of her individual medal.

Her win earned the team 16 points. Another 64 came from the relays.

"We were pretty consistent with making sure our relays are as strong as they can be, because the points are all loaded up on the relays," Barber said.

He credited senior Haley Dynis for sacrificing her individual event - the 100-yard freestyle - so she could be at her best for the state meet. Like Schneider, she swam on all three relays.

"She's been a great leader to our program," Barber said of Dynis. "One of the voted-in team captains and I kind of nicknamed her half of our team DJ. She makes sure we're having fun while we're working hard."

Dynis said she enjoyed competing in her first state meet after attending as an alternate her sophomore year.

"The medley relay was my favorite because it's just fun to have everyone doing all the different strokes, and I get to be on it with my best friends, so that's really fun," she said. "It's something we knew going into the meet we were ranked pretty high in."

Last year's state meet cancellation provided some added urgency for the team, Dynis said.

"I think it definitely motivated us, just because we had something we thought we needed to prove," she said. "Last year we probably would have done pretty well at state, too. It feels like we had something taken away."

Junior Carrie Kramer swam on the medley relay and placed in two individual events, coming in fifth in the 100-yard breaststroke and 10th in the 200-yard IM.

"This was a special year for her, being able to perform at such a high level," Barber said.

Junior Phoebe Paarlberg anchored the two free relays with lifetime bests.

"Her strength in the freestyle carried us to our goal," he said.

Senior Lauren Biegel swam the second leg of the 200-free relay and anchored the medley relay.

"Lauren Biegel has been our go-to person in the sprint freestyles since she was a freshman," Barber said.

Senior Sydney Akers had an amazing end to her season, her coach said.

"We asked her to taper for conference and she swam so fast we had to keep her in contention for sectionals, in which she swam even faster, and we had to keep her in contention for state, in which she swam even faster, ending with her personal best on the Saturday of state finals, which is unheard of," Barber said.

Diver Kayla Teuscher, a senior, was injured on her fourth dive at sectionals and still managed to qualify for state, he said. She came in 10th, despite having trouble bending her knee and walking.

"She virtually willed herself to compete and score to help the team obtain its goal, still finishing top 10," he said. "I'm not to this day sure how she did that."

Rounding out the team was sophomore Burly Bokos, who placed ninth in the 500-yard freestyle.

"As a sophomore, (she) adds to the promise of our program for years to come," Barber said.

The meet was held at FMC Natatorium in Westmont, and Barber said familiar faces could be found everywhere - from the stands to the lifeguard chairs to the parent volunteers.

"The stands at that meet was just incredible, to see everyone up there cheering," Schneider said.

One would-be junior was missing from the team. Star swimmer Kendall Pickering, who competed at state as a freshman, was killed in a car crash last December. She swam on two relays that placed fourth and eighth in 2019.

"I think the team had an internal goal, an unspoken goal of performing at our best in memory of Kendall," Barber said. "I think no matter what event they went to this year, no matter what meet, no matter what competition, they did it all the way through the end.

"It was extra special to have it happen at the state meet with this group of girls for everyone in the program," he added.

Schneider said the team worked to make Kendall proud.

"Everything we did, everything we swam, it was kind of driven from that want to make her proud," she said. "I think we did overall.

"We knew that she was up there clapping and cheering for us the whole way," she added. "I could feel her with us. I think that really helped all of us and I think that's really special."

Barber said Pickering would have competed in four events at the meet and helped the team be even more successful.

"This was a step toward healing," he said, noting that Pickering and other juniors were age group state champions together.

"They had goals," he said. "I think this was a great tribute to her by our program."

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Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean