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Girls Swimming preview: Young roster, new possibilities

Nicole Chapko of St. Charles East competes in the 100-yard butterfly during a dual meet at St. Charles North last season.
Nicole Chapko of St. Charles East competes in the 100-yard butterfly during a dual meet at St. Charles North last season.

Bill Schalz isn’t shying away from calling this a transition year for the Rosary swimming program.

With the youthful roster Schalz has, he’d be hard-pressed to deny it if he wanted to.

Schalz said it’s “entirely possible” that the Beads’ sectional lineup will be composed exclusively of freshmen and sophomores.

“I don’t think it’s going to be a crazy rebuilding year but it’s going to be an interesting year with so many freshmen,” Schalz said.

The Beads are only two years removed from a string of four consecutive IHSA state championships and are coming off back-to-back third-place state finishes.

Reaching heights that lofty this fall would be asking a lot from a team with only one senior and no juniors.

The Beads’ top returnees are both sophomores, Erin Hart and Kate Canfield.

“I know I’ve had years where we didn’t have any seniors but I don’t know if I’ve ever had a time we didn’t have juniors or seniors,” Schalz said. “That’s kind of unusual.”

The Beads still managed to win their season-opening meet against Oswego, albeit by a narrow, five-point margin that is slimmer than the Beads are used to.

Rosary had a trio of Chronicle First Team All-Area swimmers who graduated in the spring – Rachel Burke, Molly Coonce and Sarah Sykstus – all of whom went on to swim at Division I programs.

While acknowledging that this season shapes up as a challenge, Schalz said all of the girls have club swimming backgrounds, so his demanding training regimen is “not brand new.”

A look at the other area girls swimming programs:

St. Charles East

East coach Joe Cabel thinks the Saints have a team that can compete for a top-10 state finish.

Even without Emma Smith, last year’s Chronicle Swimmer of the Year, East has ample depth and senior leadership.

Seniors Nicole Chapko, Mary Snyder, Kimmie Scott, Hannah Saunders and Jacqueline Blondin are the Saints’ veteran tone-setters.

Juniors Izzie Bindseil and Stephanie Garvin are among the other top threats for an East team that is “a good three-deep in each event,” according to Cabel.

There is still room for some fresh blood. Junior Shea Hoyt and freshmen Lucy Johnson and Isabel Herb are among the Saints’ top newcomers.

Dana Ritter should be an asset in diving.

St. Charles North

Despite losing a marquee swimmer, St. Charles North coach Rob Rooney likes what he sees from the North Stars.

“First impressions are that we have a very coachable group of young girls who are a united team that are extremely hardworking right now,” Rooney said.

Rooney didn’t want to address the departure of Meagan Popp – who finished fourth in the state as a freshman last year in the 200-individual medley – but he remains enthusiastic about a North Stars team led by senior captains Chloe Tykal, Emily Ponte and Kaitlyn Veto.

“Our leadership is awesome,” Rooney said. “They are a group of kids that are very tight-knit socially with each other. They are a very intelligent group of young girls who know it means to be part of a team and they are working together to help the younger kids understand.”

Junior Loriel Hutchinson should give North a boost after running cross country last year while Hannah Zimmer and freshmen Monica Guyett, Grace Samuelson, Kristen Kowaleski and Serena Allendorfer are among the other North Stars that have caught Rooney’s eye in the season’s beginning stages.

Rooney expects North to be especially formidable in freestyle events.

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