South Swimmers rock record books at State meet

Ethan Spalding, co-Sports Editor

Heading into the IHSA State meet, the varsity women’s swim team’s goal was to take home a trophy by placing in the top three in state, according to senior Olivia Smoliga.

Despite higher expectations, the team finished in fourth place, falling to third place Nequa Valley by a total of three points. But when the Titans came home, they were ecstatic with their performance, according to head coach Kelly Timson.

Though they were somewhat saddened with their lack of a trophy, their accomplishments at the meet- with two state and two national records- outweighed any disapointment, according to Timson.

The Lady Titans’ road to the record books began at the sectional meet Nov. 9, where the Titans qualified the majority of their roster for the state meet. On the roster were seniors Olivia Smoliga, Niki Wells, Sarah Grieve, Kimmy Durkin and Katie Iida; junior Bailey Moynihan; and sophomores Katie Wells and Kelly Cordes. Junior diver Amanda Browder qualified for State as well.

Heading into state prelims Friday, Nov. 16, Smoliga, Cordes and the Titans 200 and 400 freestyle relays were seeded within the top 12, which are the positions that score points at the meet. The 200 freestyle relay, as well as Smoliga’s 100 backstroke and 50 freestyle, entered the meet with the top time in the state.

According to Timson, expectations were high for the state meet after the strong sectional performance.

“We had talked about Olivia winning her events and getting state records and the national records, which were a little bit of a reach,” Timson said. “We talked about how we should’ve been able to win the 200 free relay, and a little about the state record. [We expected] the 400 free relay to be right in there for first.”

At prelims, the team did not meet expectations, according to Katie Wells. Though Smoliga broke two state records (both of them her own), neither freestyle relay placed with the top time in state, and no other individuals qualified for finals.

Katie Wells, who swam the 50 and 100 freestyle as well as both freestyle relays, admits she was disappointed with her performance at prelims. Her improvement in the relays, however, provided the majority of the time difference between prelims and finals, something she attributes to a change in mindset.

“[At prelims] I didn’t do so well, and I was really upset all the way until I went to bed, but the next morning I woke up and thought, ‘Today I’m going to get it together and do it for the team,” Wells said.

With Katie Wells’s improvement as well as the swims of Niki Wells, Moynihan and Smoliga, the Titans were able to set a state record in the 200 freestyle relay with a time of 1:32.98. Cordes then joined Katie Wells, Moynihan and Smoliga to swim a state record time of 3:24.50 in the 400 freestyle relay. These races, combined with Smoliga’s national record-setting 50 freestyle and 100 backstroke performances (with times of 21.99 and 51.43, respectively), netted the Titans a total of 96 points, three points shy of a trophy.

None of the swimmers really cared, however, as Smoliga, Kaite Wells and Moyihan all say the records were more memorable. Coach Timson believes that is what is most important.

“It’s  always been one of my goals to get a trophy, but as we were leaving the pool, I felt the girls were so excited about everything, and they didn’t think twice [about the trophy], so I thought I shouldn’t either,” Timson said. “At the end of the day, [missing by] three points is a little disappointing, but those records will leave a bigger legacy.”

Inside the Records: Key numbers from the Lady Titans’ State performance

96. The number of points the Titans scored at the State meet, the maximum total they could have achieved with the number of events they qualified for finals on Saturday.

6. The number of state records owned by Glenbrook South swimming and diving (both men’s and women’s). No other Illinois school has more than two.

4. The number of event championships the Titans claimed, all state records. No other team won more than two events.

21.99. Olivia Smoliga’s 50 freestyle time, making her the first female high schooler under 22 seconds in the event.

51.43. Smoliga’s 100 backstroke time, .1 seconds under Olympian Rachel Bootsma’s national record.

3. The number of State records possessed by Smoliga, more than any other swimmer in Illinois.

2. The number of women with multiple high school national records: Smoliga and North Dakota swimmer Dangy Knutson, who has four.

(Photo courtesy of the Chicago Tribune:,0,