Olivia Smoliga stellar in state prelims

SHARE Olivia Smoliga stellar in state prelims
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Olivia Smoliga has been such a good swimmer for so long that people just expect her to do great things.

Sure enough, the Glenbrook South senior delivered on Friday, breaking two of her own state records during the preliminary round of the state finals at Evanston.

Smoliga started by smashing the record in the 50-yard freestyle, lowering the mark from 22.55 to 22.21. She followed that by clocking a phenomenal 51.84 in the 100 backstroke, eclipsing her old mark by 1.59 seconds.

Both performances sparked standing ovations from the sellout crowd.

“That was awesome,” Smoliga said. “It’s really awesome when I see people standing up for me. It definitely pumps me up. It’s really sweet and it makes me even more excited for tomorrow, the medal round, which is what really counts.”

Smoliga, who also timed 22.23 on the opening leg of the 200 free relay, is planning to take aim Saturday at the national high school records in both of her individual races. The 50 record is 22.04, which has stood since 2002, while the backstroke standard of 51.53 was set by Rachel Bootsma in 2010.

Smoliga turned in Friday’s times despite swimming with blurry goggles and playing it safe off the starting block.

“She didn’t push it on her starts, so I think she’s got a little more in her tomorrow,” Glenbrook South coach Kelly Timson said. “[In the backstroke] she wasn’t out that fast, so I was a little nervous after the first 50, but that last 25 she really brought it back and it was a great swim.”

Smoliga would not use the goggles as an excuse and was pleased with her results.

“I’m ecstatic,” the Georgia recruit said. “I’m so glad the way my taper worked out and how loose I feel right now. I think after I tweak my turns a little bit tomorrow I hope to go a little faster. I’ve got to get a good pair of goggles and go after it tomorrow.”

The backstroke final will pit the last two state champions against each other in adjacent lanes. Defending champion Gabby Sims of Downers Grove North had the second-fastest time, a personal-best 54.37. Sims, a junior, won the title last year with a 55.8 while Smoliga opted to swim the 100 free instead, setting a state record in that event.

But even Sims all but conceded that Smoliga will prevail.

“I’m not going to be negative, but really I am expecting to go second tomorrow and I’ve kind of accepted that, and that’s okay because she’s so amazing,” Sims said. “I was cheering for her today and I really want to see her [get the national record]. I think that would be so cool.

“I wanted to go 54.6, so I’m kind of happy. So anything better than that would be great. It is going to be fun to swim next to her. We’re actually friends so there will probably be a little bit of joking around behind the blocks.”

Another highly anticipated race is the 100 breaststroke, which figures to be the fastest in state history. New Trier senior Riley Hayward was one of four swimmers to go under 1:03. The USC recruit’s time of 1:02.22 is only .39 off the state record.

Hayward and teammate Kara Lucenti, who was fifth, will provide crucial points for the Trevians, who will try to hold off Fenwick and win their third straight team title.

“I’m really proud of Riley Hayward and Kara Lucenti who stepped up big for us at a really critical time,” New Trier coach Mac Guy said. “You’ve got to tip your cap to Fenwick who is just swimming so well. We’ve got our work cut out for as tomorrow.”

Fenwick broke its own state record in the 200 medley relay, with the quartet of Kierston Farley-Sepe, Haley Wickham, Mimi Schneider and Colleen Barron timing 1:41.68. The Friars, who were second last season, also had the top time in the 200 free relay (1:34.56) and 400 free relay (3:25.42).

In other events, Sims had the best time in the 100 free (49.65), Libertyville’s Morgan Dickson led the 200 individual medley (2:03.69) and Neuqua Valley’s Gia Dalesandro topped the 100 butterfly (54.31). Zion-Benton’s Allegra Codamon leads the diving with 307.75 points.

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