ST. CHARLES – St. Charles East senior girls swimmers briefed younger teammates on meet basics at the beginning of Monday's practice.
Notes to bring extra towels, not wear earrings or bracelets and not take backpacks on deck all were scrawled on a whiteboard.
It was an uncharacteristically low-key display compared to the regular flow of workouts. Senior Shea Hoyt got a taste when she transferred from Atlanta last year, and soon found them to be the team's foundation.
There were lots of seniors then, but the atmosphere hasn't changed as the Saints brace to bring their newcomers up to speed and improve on last season's 14th-place state finish.
"The high school practices in Georgia are nothing compared to what it is here," Hoyt said. "I just love all the cheering. It's so much fun and it's really intense and it's a good vibe."
Much of the Saints' former nucleus has graduated, namely 2012 Kane County Chronicle Girls Swimmer of the Year Nicole Chapko, who placed sixth in the 100-yard breaststroke in the Chronicle area's lone championship final in November.
Chapko competed in three overall finals that day, including the 400 freestyle relay. Just one member of that quartet returns, but she's eager to keep the cycle going and inspire the freshmen and sophomores anew. Fourth-year varsity swimmer Izzie Bindseil realizes she's not too far removed from their deck shoes, and welcomes the interactions.
"They kind of just ask us for advice on anything," Bindseil said. "We're open to any questions they have on swimming, school, order of events, what they do during the meet, after the meet, stuff like that."
There promises to be ample opportunity for on-the-job learning at today's season opener against visiting Wheaton North. The Saints boast 63 swimmers in their program, one less than the Falcons.
The schools will compete on three levels.
Veteran coach Joe Cabel sees adjustment as the key to improvement. How quickly can promising freshmen such as Dominique Carravetta and Amy Pearson gain comfort and poise alongside returners such as Bindseil, Hoyt, Brigget Flesher and Stephanie Garvin?
Sophomore Jordan Morling, a transfer from Virginia, also has shown well in the early season. Still, it's all about building for the state meet at New Trier, especially with a group that could use more state series experience.
"We're going to have to harden up through the season to be prepared for that," Cabel said, "because the state meet's kind of a different animal mentally."
Overall, Cabel called the Saints "very depthy," and is confident knowing newer members are in the hands of seniors who are in the process of navigating another whiteboard lesson: handling college recruiting.
"I think we're going to do really well," Bindseil said. "We have a lot of fun, so that's always a good start-up."