Smoliga breaks two national records (plus videos and photo gallery)
Updated: November 25, 2012 10:38PM
EVANSTON — In the pantheon of high school swimming stars in Illinois, Olivia Smoliga is a supernova.
The Glenbrook South senior ended her prep career with an unprecedented bang Saturday, smashing two national records and helping her team to two state relay records at the state finals.
Smoliga started by winning the 50-yard freestyle in 21.99, breaking the national mark of 22.04 set in 2002 by U.S. Olympian Kara Lynn Joyce. Then she achieved her long-stated goal of taking down the national record in the 100 backstroke, timing 51.43 to eclipse another Olympian, Rachel Bootsma, who set the previous mark of 51.53 two years ago.
“It feels awesome,” Smoliga said after the 50. “Having a state record in a fast state is one thing, but then [having] a national record is so awesome; so I’m really happy.”
Smoliga broke her own state records in both events for the second straight day, going .22 faster in the 50 and .41 faster in the backstroke. The difference in the former race was the turn.
“The turn and the finish were off yesterday and I think I hit them and it shows,” Smoliga said.
The national records proved that Smoliga isn’t one to rest on her laurels. She finishes her career with six individual state titles – three in the 50, two in the backstroke and one in the 100 free, which she won last year. She holds the state record in all three events
“[It took] a lot of work,” Smoliga said. “You think about all the practices you have to wake up early for, doubles during the middle of the season and then coming into taper, working on the little things like the start and the turn really does pay off in the end.”
As incredible as Smoliga’s individual efforts were, her exploits on the relays were what made Glenbrook South coach Kelly Timson proud. Smoliga swam the first leg of the 200 free relay and gave teammates Bailey Moynihan, Niki Wells and Katie Wells a lead they would never relinquish en route to a state-record 1:32.98 clocking.
“That was awesome for the whole team,” Timson said. “Obviously her individual swims were great but the other three girls on that relay really fed off her getting them out to that lead. She really motivates the team.”
Smoliga capped the meet by anchoring Katie Wells, Kelly Cordes and Moynihan to victory in the 400 free relay with another state record, 3:24.50.
But that wasn’t enough to get the Titans a trophy. They finished fourth with 96 points, three behind Neuqua Valley. New Trier won its third consecutive team title and 13th overall by holding off Fenwick 166-157 despite not winning a single event.
“We [knew they] wouldn’t go down without a challenge,” said New Trier senior Riley Hayward, who finished second in the breaststroke behind fellow USC recruit Evan Swenson of Loyola. “It was an exciting day, maybe too close for comfort, but we did it and it’s all good.”
New Trier’s Stephanie Marchuk, an Indiana commit, was second in the 200 free for the second straight year and fourth in the 500 free.
“It’s kind of surreal and especially special because it’s our senior year and it’s literally all the team (that got it done),” Marchuk said. “I owe it all to them because we couldn’t do it without them. We really stepped up to the plate.”
Fenwick set a state record in the 200 medley relay, timing 1:41.87 behind Kierston Farley-Sepe, Haley Wickham, Mimi Schneider and Colleen Barron. The Friars, who were runners-up for the second straight season, took second in the other two relays.
“Our team really did all that we could this season,” said the Northwestern-bound Wickham. “I know we came up short but we’re still very grateful for an awesome season and I know that they’ll do great next year too.
Swenson broke through to win her first state title after finishing second the past two years to Smoliga in the 50. The breaststroke was a new event for her.
“Oh my gosh, just to see No. 1 on the board was so unreal,” Swenson said. “I’ve never swum the 100 breaststroke at state before, so it’s very different. It’s unreal being No. 1, finally.”
Neuqua Valley senior Gia Dalesandro, an Indiana recruit, was the only other double winner, capturing the 200 individual medley in 2:02.53 and the 100 butterfly in 53.44.
“I’m really having a hard time believing it already, but it’s awesome,” said Dalesandro, who had never swum the IM in high school competition before this season. “I hit the wall and I could hear the fans screaming, so I knew that was it.
“A couple of years ago, I had no idea I would swim the 200 IM, like ever. It was a challenge all season to learn my strategy and learn how I was going to swim it, and to win state is just so amazing.”
Downers Grove North junior Gabby Sims, who won the backstroke last season, took the 100 free crown this year in a personal-best 49.57 and was second to Smoliga in the back (personal-best 54.02).
“Like last year, as great as it was to win [backstroke], I knew in the back of my mind that Olivia didn’t swim it, so it wasn’t as satisfying as this one was” Sims said. “It was really cool. I’m really excited for next year.”
So is Barrington freshman Kirsten Jacobsen, who won the 500 free in 4:50.53.
“It means a lot,” Jacobsen said. “I tried so hard for this. I’m really happy about it.”
Benet had never produced a state champion swimmer or diver but senior Taylor Kramer changed that when she captured the diving title with 414.25 points, edging Fenwick’s Michelle Kalupski by 3.9 points.
“I was really focused today and I knew I could come in and win it,” said Kramer, a Penn State recruit. “I don’t think I started off too good but then I went to do my double, which is my fourth dive, and I nailed that and after that I think the meet starting going and I was hitting.”
Pick up your local Pioneer Press newspaper Wednesday this week to read more about the girls state swim meet.