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Rosary seeks return to state prominence

Rosary's Erin Hart of St. Charles practices with her team in Aurora Wednesday afternoon.
Rosary's Erin Hart of St. Charles practices with her team in Aurora Wednesday afternoon.

AURORA – Rosary’s 400-yard freestyle relay missed the qualifying cut for Friday’s girls swimming state meet preliminaries by sixth-tenths of a second.

Naturally, such a close call at the end of an otherwise sparkling Neuqua Valley Sectional threatened to sink the Beads’ mood. Then athletes remembered pretty much everyone would be jumping into the New Trier pool, anyway.

Built on college-bound superstars in past seasons, Rosary knows its bid to return to the podium after tying for 34th in the 2012 team race hinges on the whole.

“That we had a lot more people qualify kind of patched over that hole of not having that relay,” junior Erin Hart, a St. Charles resident, said.

“I think that if we all swim really well, and if we all do what I know we can all do, that we’ll be able to place really high at state this year.”

Tying Naperville North for second place at sectionals – four points behind winner Naperville Central – Rosary advanced entries in every event but diving, the 500 freestyle and the 400 free relay.

In a switch from last fall, Beads coach Bill Schalz shifted the team’s taper so it would fully take effect for this week’s workouts.

Imagine his delight, then, when sophomore Sarah Fergus dropped about four seconds from her previous best to swim 57.5 seconds in the 100 butterfly. Or when classmate Georgia Young posted a 1:54.8 in the 200 freestyle after a rough week of practice.

“I’m really excited to see what will happen at state for us,” sophomore Annie Gosselin said. “I think we’ll do really, really well.”

Gosselin (ninth, 100 backstroke) and Hart (11th, 100 freestyle) advanced from prelims to consolation finals last season, and are the de facto elder stateswomen of a team loaded with freshmen and sophomores.

“We can help explain to them – the freshmen, the newbies – what it’s like and everything,” Hart said. “And we’re a lot closer of a team this year, and we kind of know what the flow is now.”

Schalz appeals to the pair’s valuable experience, but also notes the Beads lack “that superstar that you hitch your wagon to and everyone kind of climbs on her back and goes.”

Mary DeScenza Moller and Olivia Scott, among others, fit that description in the past.

“It’s certainly different,” Schalz said, “because your superstar tends to get all the publicity, but then they tend to get all the pressure, too.”

These days, the expectations remain, but the entire team scrambles to share fulfilling them.

Rosary claimed four successive state titles from 2006 to 2009 and finished third in 2010 and 2011 before last season’s relative struggles. Having a roster with so few ties to the dynasty days eventually will help the program start anew, the thinking goes.

“You know, it’s funny,” Schalz said. “Typically, what I sweat the most is the relay exchange. That’s the one thing that if you’re having a great meet, you have a couple bad relay exchanges, things [start to unravel]. ... You just never know until you get that first swim out of the way.” 

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