2023 Northwest Herald girls swimming team preview capsules

Crystal Lake South's Avery Watson swims in the consolation heat of the 100-yard butterfly during the IHSA girls state swimming finals at FMC Natatorium in Westmont on Saturday, Nov. 12, 2022.

Fox Valley Conference


Coach: Scott Lattyak (14th season)

Last season: Fifth in FVC

Top returners: Maggie Bendell, sr.; Delaney Lentz, sr.; Emma Black, jr.; Kasandra Gruen, so.; Sofia Iskra, so.

Key newcomer: Olivia Nagaj, fr.

Worth noting: Bendell returns after winning the IHSA diving state title last season. She became the first Cary-Grove student to win a diving state title after she moved up from third on the second day of the finals with a 462.50 score. She earned the Northwest Herald’s Girls Swimmer of the Year last year and remains motivated to cap her senior season with another chance at a title. “She’s extremely disciplined, very motivated,” Lattyak said. “She’s always trying to improve her own abilities.” … Both Gruen and Lentz are ready to take their next steps this year. Lentz took 10th in the 100-yard backstroke at the Stevenson Sectional last season and 19th in the 50 freestyle, while Gruen took 19th in the 100 butterfly and 21st in the 200 individual medley. They also were part of the 200 medley that finished 12th. “Hopefully they’re going to pave the way for competitive relays, as well,” Lattyak said. … Lattyak is excited to see how Nagaj can do in both the 100 breaststroke and free. … The Trojans want to move up in the conference and compete more in duals. “We are trying to be more competitive in our dual meets and try to bring home a little bit more wins this year,” Lattyak said. “We also want to place at the conference meet.”

Crystal Lake South co-op

(with Crystal Lake Central and Prairie Ridge)

Coach: John Valentine (seventh season)

Last season: First in FVC

Top returners: Avery Watson (CLS), sr.; Mackenzie Resch (CLS), sr.; Abby Uhl (PR), jr.; Penny Brereton (CLS), so.; Isabella Fontana (CLS), so.

Key newcomers: Ani Zelikman (PR), fr.; Ava Lackey (CLC), fr.; Avery Chan (CLC), fr.

Worth noting: Both Watson and Resch return to lead a talented Gators squad after qualifying for the state meet last season. Watson took 12th in the 100 fly at 57.60 and 18th in the 100 back at 57.90, while Resch finished 37th in the 50 free at 24.44. They also helped the 400 free relay team take seventh at state last season with a time of 3:28.64. Uhl also competed on the relay team. Valentine is excited to watch how the two seniors will cap their careers. “Not only are they physically gifted, but they’ve got the mental fortitude to make things happen,” Valentine said. … Uhl earned the best individual showing at the state meet last year by taking 11th in the 100 free at 52.12. Valentine is excited to see what Uhl does as a junior and her ability to swim any race. … Fontana returns after earning FVC Freshman of the Year honors last season. She took ninth at the Stevenson Sectional last season in the 50 free (24.45) and 10th in the 200 free (1:56.13). … Zelikman leads a strong group of freshmen. Valentine thinks she can step in where her older sister Abi left off. “I think there’s a lot of upside for her,” Valentine said. … The Gators added 15 freshmen this season, a strong number that has Valentine encouraged about the co-op’s growth. “It’s a very positive sign,” Valentine said. … South will compete in tough invitationals, including Stevenson and Hinsdale South. “We want to try to challenge ourselves with some of the best teams in the state early on in the season,” Valentine said.


Coach: Jenna Gaudio (sixth season)

Last season: Third in FVC

Top returners: Kate Gribbens, sr.; Rebecca Rocks, jr.; Bella Moyer, jr.

Key newcomers: Alyssa Gooden, fr.; Kacey Laput, fr.

Worth noting: The Red Raiders will have a young roster, with only one senior. Gaudio said the upperclassmen have done a good job of making the freshmen feel like they’re part of the team, while the freshmen have accepted the challenge of taking on bigger roles early on. “It’s really cool to see the girls, especially the freshmen, kind of step up and be involved in our team culture,” Gaudio said. … Rocks missed out on qualifying for the state meet by a second in the 50 free. She took 14th in the St. Charles East Sectional and finished 10th in the 100 back. Gribbens placed 12th in the 100 free and 13th in the 200 free. Moyer is a versatile swimmer who should have a big impact this season. … Gaudio has been impressed with Gooden and her ability to be a strong distance swimmer. “She’s proven to be such a great asset so far and in her training in the water,” Gaudio said. “I’m excited to see what she can do this year and in the course of the next few years.” … Huntley is looking to break some of those records previous Red Raiders set over the past couple of seasons. The Red Raiders also want to compete for a spot near the top of the FVC.

Jacobs co-op

(with Hampshire and Dundee-Crown)

Coach: Rebecca Dziubla (third season)

Last season: Fourth in FVC

Top returners: Katelyn Mumper (Jac), sr.; Carly Pierzchalski (Jac), jr.; Kaitlyn Tomaszewski (Jac), so.

Key newcomers: Rachel Johnson (Jac), fr.; Tessa Iverson (Hamp.), fr.; Elie Niemi (Jac), fr.; Olivia Burczynski (D-C), fr.

Worth noting: Dundee-Crown joined Hampshire and Jacobs in forming the new Jacobs co-op. The Chargers previously competed by themselves, and the Whip-Purs and Golden Eagles competed together as a co-op. Dziubla said the transition has been smooth, especially since many of the freshmen already competed together on their club teams. “Having that young talent that is coming from club swimming together, being able to say we’re going to be one high school team has been a really nice transition,” Dziubla said. … Mumper and Tomaszewski just missed qualifying for last season’s state meet by seconds in multiple events. Mumper finished fourth in the 100 back at the St. Charles East Sectional and missed state qualification by two seconds and took eighth in the 100 free, missing state by three seconds. Tomaszewski placed fourth in the 100 breast, missing state by three seconds, and took 13th in the 200 IM. Dziubla has watched her seniors put in the work over the offseason to pick up those extra seconds. “Really having that common goal of making it to state as well as be role models for our incoming freshmen is going to be super exciting,” Dziubla said. … Johnson has been racing at state-qualifying times. Dziubla is excited to help her over the next couple of months as she tries to qualify during her freshman season.


Coach: Sharon Lesniak (fifth season)

Last season: Second in FVC

Top returners: Victoria Sadowski, sr.; Emma Blanken, jr.; Emma Story, so.; Reilly Byron, sr.; Allison Tomaszewski, sr.

Worth noting: Both Story and Blanken will try to make state this season after coming close to qualifying last year for the Warriors. Story took fourth in the 200 free at the Libertyville Sectional and sixth in the 100 free, while Blanken finished 10th in the 100 fly and 12th in the 100 back. Lesniak is excited to see how they approach the fall as they try to qualify for state. “They really have the potential to go to state if they continue to work hard and set their minds to their training.” Lesniak said. “The sky’s the limit for them.” … Bryon will lead a strong group of returners. She finished fourth in the 100 breast and fifth in the 200 IM, Sadowski finished seventh in the 500 free, 14th in the 100 back and placed 13th at the 50 free. Lesniak thinks her senior group can end their high school careers with impressive finishes. “Their heart is into it, and I think they’re going to have a good year,” Lesniak said. “It’s exciting to see how some of them will end their senior years.” … The Warriors will travel to the Warren Invitational at the end of September and compete against some top swimming program in the state, including Huntley, Lake Forest, Libertyville and Vernon Hills.

Woodstock North co-op

(with Woodstock)

Coach: Renee Walker (10th season)

Last season: Sixth in FVC

Top returners: Addison Walker (WHS), sr.; Bella Borta (WN), sr.

Key newcomer: Chloe Albrecht (WN), fr.

Worth noting: Borta and Addison Walker will lead a Thunder group that has seven seniors, but many first-time swimmers. Borta finished third in the 50 free at the Libertyville Sectional last season, just missing the state-qualifying time by 0.41 seconds. Addison Walker finished 11th in the 50 free and missed qualification by two seconds. Renee Walker is excited to see how her two seniors can end their high school career with a push toward state, especially Borta, who competed in club swimming for the first time. “She really wants to step up and see what she can do this year,” Renee Walker said. … Coach Walker has noticed Albrecht’s talent. The freshman has participated in club swimming and impressed her teammates with her ability to compete in any race. She’ll focus on the 100 fly and the 200 IM. “She’s going to be phenomenal in any event that she’s in,” Renee Walker said. “She’s going to have an amazing four years if she keeps that attitude.” … Renee Walker will work on making sure she finds a balance in helping first-time swimmers succeed while making sure her experienced swimmers can reach their goals of postseason success. “It’s a fair balance that works well,” Renee Walker said. … The Thunder are looking for a top finish at the FVC meet.