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Lilly Culp

University High's Lilly Culp, center, competes in the 200-yard individual medley during last year's Intercity Meet at Horton Pool. Culp is one of 13 returning letterwinners on the Pioneers.


Coach: Jennifer Godlewski, 1st year

2016: 4th in Intercity; 3rd in Big 12; 4th in sectional; 46th in state

Returning letterwinners: Sr. - Emma Fenton, Lauren Lutman, Tess Maubach; Jr. - Josie Schmidt, Macy Rink, Maddy Novoty; So. - Katie Novotny.

Storyline: Following up Bob Loy’s 38-year tenure as head coach, Godlewski has a 16-member squad that features three seniors and five juniors while welcoming five freshmen. “Our upperclassmen have really taken the freshmen under their wing and they should make a nice impact on the team’s success,” she said. Juniors Rink and Schmidt participated as freshmen on the Raiders’ 400-yard freestyle relay team that competed in the 2015 state finals, while Rink placed 12th in the 200 freestyle with a time of 1:52.29 at last year’s state meet. “We have a solid squad of returning swimmers who are versatile in all events,” said Godlewski. “Two have been to the state before and are looking forward to not only returning, but hopefully medaling as well.” Godlewski will still have Loy helping as an assistant, along with Jill Dorbeck. “With three coaches on deck and a small squad number, the swimmers are getting a lot individualized attention and training,” she said. “This should help accelerate their growth in the sport.”

Normal Community

Coach: Heather Budak, 13th year

2016: 2nd in Intercity; 2nd in Big 12; 2nd in sectional; 28th in state

Returning letterwinners: Sr. - Claire Koh, Julia Oostman; Jr. - Sophie Benson, Chloe Burcham, Sophie Osborne, Audrey Ross,; Soph. - Julia Heimstead, Anya Weber.

Storyline: The Iron boast three returnees who medaled in the state meet a year ago, as Oostman placed eighth (5:00.87) and Koh was 10th (5:01.32) in the 500 freestyle, while Heimstead was 10th in the 100 butterfly (56.67). An already strong squad could get an additional boost from the arrival of senior Grace Ariola, a University of Texas recruit who is listed on the roster but had not practiced with the team in the preseason. “We’re certainly excited for the prospect of her joining us,” Budak said of Ariola, who won five silver medals and one bronze at the FINA World Junior Championships last week in Indianapolis. “Certainly, if Grace ends up with us we’re looking for fantastic things from her. She’s expressed to me that she’s really excited about learning to swim with a high school team in that environment.” Noting strong practice times from sophomore Ashley Bengston and freshman Brianna Bergmann, Budak anticipates getting key contributions from newcomers. “We have a group of solid freshmen swimmers that have all participated on competitive teams,” she said. “I think they have a lot to bring to the depth of our team.”

Normal West

Coach: Dawn Fudge, 8th year

2016: 3rd in Intercity; 5th in Big 12; 5th in sectional

Returning letterwinners: Sr. - Haley Dees, Grace Gallagher, Caroline Rhoda, Liz Scoma; Jr. - Maggie Burris, Sophia Furman, Alexis Schupbach; So. - Kate Carlock, Athena Lambros, Nellie Sherrick, Emily Tung.

Storyline: With a 31-member squad that includes 11 returning letterwinners, the Wildcats will add senior Duke recruit Melissa Pish to the mix. “She definitely will be a state qualifier and she should do very well at state,” said Fudge. “She’ll be swimming freestyle, but we haven’t decided what events she’ll swim. We’ll see how she progresses throughout the season.” Fudge is aiming high, believing her team will be able to use its depth to an advantage. “My goal is to have three relays go to state this year,” she said. “I’ve got some solid upperclassmen swimmers and some really solid freshmen swimmers coming in.” Gallagher, Rhoda and Dees will serve as captains while Fudge identified freshmen Ali Eagleton, Sophie Parson and Alexa Starkey as other newcomers to watch besides Pish. “The girls have been working really hard. Every single girl has come in with swimming experience,” said Fudge. “That’s been really nice because we’ve been able to just jump right in to some really good training right away.”

University High

Coach: Michelle Meyer, 2nd year

2016: 1st in Intercity; 1st in sectional; 43rd in state

Returning letterwinners: Sr. - Emily Swigart, Hannah Matthews, Dana Siverly, Maya Sorensen; Jr. -Poleena Kovalaske, Lilly Culp, Jade Fung, Emma Stroh; So. - Caroline Bazan, Taylor Brady, Anita Kovalaske, Sammy Lighty, Lily Matthews.

Storyline: Meyer believes the Pioneers are in for a “great season” but is not entirely sure what to expect as a first-year member of the Central State Eight Conference. “It’s kind of a get our feet wet scenario with the conference, no pun intended,” she said. “I’m kind of just going to see how it goes. … Maybe as the season goes on, we’ll know more what to expect.” Culp delivered a 10th place finish in the 200 individual medley with a time of 2:06.11 at last year’s state meet. U High also had Siverly (1-meter diving), Poleena Kovalaske (50 freestyle) and Swigart (100 backstroke) compete at state, with Culp also participating in the 100 breaststroke and joining Kovalaske and Lighty for the 400 free relay. “Everybody who’s returning should be a contributor this year,” said Meyer. “We’ve got a lot of new kids that I’m really looking forward to seeing how they’re going to help us as a whole and where they’re going to fit in.” Seniors Sidney Kennedy and Maya Sorensen are back with the team after taking a season off, while Meyer believes “a great bunch of freshmen” will develop into key contributors. “My biggest thing is just improving,” she said. “I always want to see progress with each of the kids, no matter how long they’ve been on the team.”

— Compiled by Joe Deacon


Assistant Sports Editor

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