GIRLS SWIMMING SPOTLIGHT
Any article on girls swimming in Central Illinois has to start with Peoria Notre Dame.
The perennial powerhouse is loaded with talent once again, and junior Becky Stoughton made big waves when she broke the school record in the 500-yard freestyle in the season opener against Pekin.
She not only broke the record held by Katie Childs (2006), she shattered it into a million pieces.
Stoughton swam a whopping 4:53.44, almost seven seconds faster than Childs’ record time.
“It was unbelievable,” said Notre Dame coach Derek Amerman. “It was one of the best swims I’ve ever seen. She was very fluid. She didn’t miss any of her walls. You won’t see a better swim than that very often.”
Stoughton’s name will now go on the ND record board, but that is familiar territory. She holds four other individual school records, and is part of two school-record relay teams.
Stoughton will contend for a state medal in November. She will likely have company from a few of her teammates at the state meet. Seniors Lauren Lambrecht and Ali Burek, and juniors Emily Dvorsky, Emily O’Neil, Nicole Miller and Jenna Scott all have a shot at medals, Amerman said.
“Lauren is more confident and more focused, and Nicole is a very talented swimmer who will fill the holes that were left when some of our top sprinters graduated,” he said.
The standards, as always, are high at Notre Dame.
“Our goal is to finish in the top 10 at State,” Amerman said. “We will always shoot for that. I think we have girls who are capable of accomplishing that goal.”
Notre Dame won the Water Warrior Invitational at Sterling last week after winning five of the six relay events.
“That’s not a fast pool, but we put up some good times. I was pleased,” Amerman said.
Richwoods is off to a good start under first-year coach Lynn Thompson, a longtime assistant for Corky King and Mic McCormick and a former swimmer under Hall of Fame coach Rich Clopper
Richwoods opened the season with wins over Normal Community and Springfield.
Thompson has only one senior (Elissa Chapin), and four juniors.
Hannah Freyman, a junior, who won two fourth-place medals at state last year, is getting even better, Thompson said.
“Hannah is so focused. She has more drive than you would normally see in a high school junior,” Thompson said. “She is working so hard. She knows that, as she gets faster, so does everybody else, so she has to keep working.”
Thompson acknowledged that Notre Dame is the clear favorite in the conference, but she said beating the Irish is not necessarily the biggest goal.
“The good thing about swimming is that, during the season, each swimmer can achieve their own goals within themselves,” she said. “You don’t have to get caught up on beating a certain team. If you work hard and achieve your gaols, you can have success.”
Thompson said freshmen Taylor Hoerr and Ally Chang have made big strides in a short time, and sophomores Devon O’Neil, Allison Thompson and Meghan O’Malley improved a lot from last year.
“This is a great group,” she said. “At the meets, I didn’t have to tell anyone to stand up and cheer. I looked back, and they were all cheering. They are very motivated and excited for the season.”
Dunlap/IVC coach Jim Bucher also has a young team (21 freshmen or sophomores), but he said he likes their chances at a top-three finish at Sectionals after finishing fifth last year.
“Everybody is working hard and I’m really pleased with what I’ve seen so far,” he said. “We’re young, but a lot of these girls have been in our are-group program for years. They are not just starting from scratch. They are very accomplished swimmers.”
Bucher called senior Breanna Basso his best overall swimmer.
“She had some breathing problems, but she is recovering and she’s getting healthier,” he said. “She has shown a lot of improvement.”
He called senior Renee Voorhees the “definite leader” of the team.
“She does and says all the right things, and she’s a great influence on the young kids,” he said.
Dunlap has three divers — Mary Greb, Nikki Mathew and Kenzie Lasher — after not having any last year.
The Dunlap/IVC finished first in the three-team meet Thursday at Normal Community.
Individual winners for Dunlap/IVC were: Basso (50 free), Madeline Bruce (200 free, 500 free), Renee Voorhees (100 free), and Danel Voorhees (100 fly). Mathew won the diving competition.
Dunlap/IVC also won the 200 medley relay (Basso, Anna Windsor, D. Voorhees and R. Voorhees).
Peoria Notre Dame finished fourth at the Nequa Valley Invitational Saturday.
Stoughton won the 200-free and 500-free, and Notre Dame won two relays.
• Richwoods finished second and Dunlap/IVC was third at the Rock Island Relays Saturday.
Richwoods won the 200-medley, 2X200 IM, 2X50 free, crescendo relay, 2X100 breast, and 400-free relay events.
Dunlap/IVC won the 2X200 free and 2X100 fly events.