Surgery derails Zitlali Montiel’s trip to swim sectionals

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Leyden sophomore Zitlali Montiel had her calendar circled for the Fenwick Sectional this Saturday.

Montiel dropped loads of time in each of her events since last season, knocking 35 seconds off her 500-yard freestyle, eight seconds off her 100 butterfly and six seconds off her 100 freestyle.

Unfortunately, Montiel will have to wait until next year for a chance to see her hard work pay off at sectionals after undergoing an appendectomy on Oct. 28.

“I kind of figured I wouldn’t be able to swim but I got really upset when the doctors told me,” Montiel said. “I worked really hard over the summer and even harder during the season. I wanted to be able to do my best at sectionals.”

Montiel started feeling ill the night of Oct. 26 and spent the following night getting sick to her stomach. She’s been to the emergency room before and really didn’t want to make another trip.

She finally relented and headed to Gottlieb Hospital at 9:30 a.m. on Oct. 28. An ultrasound was inconclusive but a CT scan showed she had appendicitis. During the laparoscopic surgery, doctors found that the appendix had ruptured.

“I was really happy that my mom had taken me to the emergency room when she did,” Montiel said. “They said that if I would have waited a couple more hours it could have gotten really bad.”

The ruptured appendix meant a longer hospital stay and a longer recovery. She spent Halloween in the hospital instead of dressing up as Tinker Bell and taking her little brother trick-or-treating.

She was released Nov. 1, with instructions to avoid strenuous activities for a month, putting an end to her swimming season.

“I was really heartbroken,” Montiel said. “Now I can’t show how hard I worked.”

She can still boast about her time drops. She’s made significant gains this season, setting personal records in the 500 free (5:56), the 100 fly (1:12) and the 100 free (1:00).

A big reason for her improvement was her devotion to training during the summer.

“This year she was one of the girls that joined the West Chicago Sharks at Leyden,” Eagles’ coach Chris Cook said. “It’s a new club they started over the summer. It allowed the girls to get more practice time and do meets over the summer. (Montiel) has been having a tremendous year, showing all the work she’s done. The bright side is that she’s a sophomore so she has plenty of time to get back in the water and do it again next year.”

Montiel, who also plays the alto saxophone in the school band, will still be on the deck when the Eagles jump into the Fenwick pool on Saturday.

“I love my team and I want to be able to support them every single step, even if I can’t swim,” Montiel said. “I’ll be there to cheer them on.”

Grace Wischmeyer is the team’s top swimmer and she’s gunning for a trip to state in the 100 breaststroke.

Leyden has plenty of other young swimmers who are improving as well. Junior Maja Bulka is the team’s best sprinter, Lesley Garcia is right up there in the IM behind Wischmeyer and Ada Bulka is strong in the breaststroke.

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