ST. CHARLES – Monica Guyett easily blocks out the commotion from above the surface when she’s competing for the St. Charles North girls swimming team.
Channeling her focus in practice sometimes is another story, even though Guyett often hears the same thing.
North Stars coach Rob Rooney hasn’t been shy in his message of relative relaxation to the team’s young core. That number includes Guyett, one of 6 to 7 freshmen expected to be in the lineup when North hosts an IHSA sectional Saturday.
“Most of the team is freshmen and they’ve never been to a championship meet,” Guyett said, “so just have fun with it and enjoy it.”
Rooney, the program’s veteran coach, says he’s had more fun coaching this season than he’s had “in a long time.”
With Guyett emerging in the freestyle events and classmates such as Serena Allendorfer, Kristin Kowaleski, Grace Samuelson and Samantha Sauer contributing, North certainly is developing a force for the future.
Still, the North Stars aren’t completely inexperienced. Junior Hannah Zimmer (200- and 400-yard freestyle) and senior Emily Ponte (400 freestyle) both were part of state-qualifying relays last season.
Rooney has appreciated both athletes’ leadership, and is especially encouraged with the way younger swimmers have absorbed lessons from either him or upperclassmen.
“They’ve done an awesome job of really enjoying what high school swimming is about and listening to instruction,” Rooney said. “Improving, believing in something bigger than themselves – which is the team – and we’re seeing a lot of great things because of it.”
Guyett finished second in the 500 freestyle at the recent Upstate Eight Conference meet, swimming in the high 5:03s and coming within about four seconds of the school record.
Her older sister, Nicole, is a junior on the team, while youngest sister Audrey is a budding talent as a seventh-grader.
“It’ll be good to have another family connection kept together between siblings,” Rooney said. “It always seems like it’s been a great thing in our program to have families.”
The Chokrans, Dieters, Mortons, Nosals and Petersons – among others – competed under Rooney, too, and all shared the bind of state series achievement.
That defining characteristic is coming to this year’s group, Rooney says, and it could even happen beginning this weekend.
Above water or not, the North Stars are hearing something not many athletes before them have. They hope it’s a ticket to success.
“There’s no pressure on us,” Rooney said. “We’re just along to enjoy it and swim fast.”
Here's a look at Chronicle-area entries in Saturday's girls swimming sectionals:
ST. CHARLES NORTH SECTIONAL St. Charles East St. Charles North Burlington Central * Geneva * Kaneland *
METEA VALLEY SECTIONAL Rosary
* Denotes schools with individual entries