LAKE FOREST — It was only one week in September, but the Libertyville girls swim and dive team accomplished two significant milestones.
On Saturday, the Wildcats participated in the nine-team Lake County Invitational at Lake Forest. Competing with several top area teams, including Barrington and Lake Forest, the Wildcats finished third. The way they led off the meet set the tone for the afternoon.
In the event’s first race, the 200-yard medley relay, Libertyville seized control from the first split and finished with a winning time of 1 minute, 48.52 seconds. The time was the Wildcats’ best of the season and indicated that the 2014 lineup of juniors Macey Neubauer and Staci Herchenbach and sophomores Meredith Robbins and Emma Richert is determined to make waves before November’s North Suburban Conference meet and state series.
“These girls here are our biggest competition aside from Loyola,” said Herchenbach, who finished runner up to Lake Forest’s Reilly Lanigan in the 100-yard butterfly. “It’s important that we keep winning throughout the season so when it comes to state, we’ll perform at our best.”
Wildcats coach Erik Rogers added: “Our goal for our kids is to be better than we were last year at Lake County. We are ahead of where we thought we’d be.”
Libertyville’s medley relay is three-fourths of what it was in 2013. That season, the Wildcats won their sectional behind Robbins (backstroke), Neubauer (breaststroke), Herchenbach (fly) and Sophia Lex (freestyle). Lex graduated, leaving the free slot open.
Libertyville tried out a few different swimmers early in the season, but Richert appears to have locked down the spot. Her 24.61 split Saturday beat Barrington’s Sara Kate Capel by 0.06 seconds for the race’s best freestyle time.
“We’ve been throwing a few different girls to see who will be the best. Right now, Emma has earned her spot,” Herchenbach said.
The Wildcats’ depth showed in their top-three finishes in three other races: the 100 breaststroke (Neubauer, second), 200 IM (Neubauer, third) and the 200 free relay (third).
Libertyville could not have entered the Lake County Invite on a higher note. On Sept. 23, the program accomplished something it hadn’t done since 1996 — beat Lake Forest in a dual meet.
Before the teams raced the 200 free in that meet, Libertyville did the math.
“If we won, we knew they’d wouldn’t be able to catch up,” Wildcats senior Jordan Rule said.
When the Wildcats did, it guaranteed a victory. They went on to beat the Scouts 106-80.
“We all stepped up and were one team and were able to beat them,” Neubauer said.
Herchenbach added: “Ever since the beginning [of the race] with the medley relay, it was all cheers. We were celebrating the whole time.”
After one week that will not soon be forgotten, there is much to celebrate about the Wildcats program. And there is more left to accomplish.
“We all have the same goal, We want to win. That’s all you can ask for,” Rule said.