Chart toppers: State swimming storylines, courtesy Fred Kroner
Senior Audrey Rodawig will have three chances to swim at state in the preliminaries.
She not only advanced in two individual events but also as part of the 200-yard freestyle relay, which cut almost six seconds from its previous best. Joining her on the relay are Sara Regan, Emma Garcia-Canga and Remy Miller.
“They had a huge qualifying swim, but I think an extra week of rest and the added excitement of being at state might help this group find a little bit more on Friday,” Chargers coach Jason Maddux said.
Rodawig lost training time due to a shoulder injury but is hitting her peak. She dropped more than three seconds in the 100 butterfly and broke the oldest existing Centennial record in the 50 freestyle.
“For her to be able to perform the way she did on Saturday is truly amazing,” Maddux said. “She has been working overtime to rehab her injured shoulder. What we saw was a culmination of pure talent, determination and an utter refusal to let an unfortunate circumstance affect her senior swim season. She is a fierce competitor.”
She’s rated fifth in the butterfly (56.94 seconds) and 13th in the 50 freestyle (24.00).
The past two years, Urbana’s Gabi Rajic won the 50-yard freestyle at sectional and qualified for state, one of two events she advanced in as an individual.
At state, however, she was unable to reach the finals. This year, as a junior, she advanced in both freestyle sprint relays (though she didn’t win either), but there’s more reason for optimism than her breaking Anne Kiddo’s 1986 school records in each race.
“I believe she has a lot more in her tank,” Urbana coach Stephanie Sherman said. “This year, we chose not to taper her for sectionals but to give her a mini rest. Like always, it comes down to defeating her own mind. Gabi swam incredible at sectionals, and I believe that we could see even more this weekend.”
Rajic is on pace to break the 52-second barrier in the 100 freestyle, an event where she is ranked eighth entering state. “Gabi has worked harder this year than she ever has, and I think it really showed at sectionals,” Sherman said.
Rajic’s record times are 24.07 in the 50 freestyle (which ranks her 14th entering state) and 52.08 in the 100 freestyle. Kiddo’s records were 24.36 and 52.70.
The Vikings’ state representative is senior Kristin Verkler, who added to her collection of school records at sectional. She set individual marks in the 200-yard individual medley (2 minutes, 9.05 seconds) and the 100 butterfly (57.04) to go with one she set earlier in the season in the 200 freestyle.
She also joined Marissa Burleson, Emily Bowman and Madeline Swiersz on the record-setting 200 medley (1:56.14), which did not advance to state.
“She is one of the most amazing, strong-willed girls I have ever met,” Danville coach Andrea Tarquini said. “Kristin is someone who excels under pressure, and she is thankful that (Benton’s Cheyenna Rhine and Centennial’s Audrey Rodawig) were there to push her to achieving her lifetime bests. We are thrilled with Kristin’s performance.”
She is seeded eighth in the butterfly and 19th in the IM, the latter an event where she cut more than 61/2 seconds.
“When she walks behind the block, I have all the confidence in the world for her, and once she sets her mind on something, she remains very focused,” Tarquini said. Verkler will sign a letter of intent today with Illinois State University.
The Maroons continued their recent dominance of the area swimming scene. A sixth consecutive sectional championship was based on the sixth year in a row where the Maroons won at least five events at sectional.
The 22-point margin of victory against Centennial was the closest for coach Will Barker’s program since the Chargers edged the Maroons for team supremacy by four points in 2006.
Clare Ramsey repeated as the sectional diving champion. Other teammates moving on to state include Katherine Penwell in two individual events. She is a three-time sectional titlist in the 500-yard freestyle and also won the 200 freeestyle. Penwell also swam on both of the school’s qualifying relays (200 medley and 400 freestyle) as did Sarah McGill and Margaret Goldsmith.
Other relay swimmers include Sara Fundator with the medley and Sophie Herr with the distance freestyle foursome.
Barker doesn’t know what to expect this week. “It was an emotional meet,” he said. “Our girls gave everything they had and were lights out. I am not sure what is left in the tank, but we will give it our best.”