OSWEGO – Oswego co-op senior Grace Cooper missed two weeks of high school girls swimming to compete internationally in Budapest.
But the multiple state champion and her teammates appear right on schedule.
“I’m hitting my times, which I’m happy with, but the team’s in a good spot,” Cooper said.
“I missed two weeks of school so I got thrown into everything but definitely something that got me going from the start was just my team because they’d been working hard for two weeks. When I came back, just seeing their hard work made me want to work harder and just know we need to do it for our end result.”
The defending state champion in the 50- and 100-yard freestyles, Cooper won those events and also contributed to 200 and 400 free relays titles Saturday in the Blue Division of the six-team Naperville North Invitational. The invite allows three entries per team in three divisions – Blue (fastest entry), Orange and White.
Oswego co-op didn’t win everything for the first time this season, but only defending state champion Neuqua Valley stood in the way.
The Wildcats, minus one all-stater on a recruiting visit, edged Oswego co-op 115-112 for the Blue Division title. Oswego co-op won the Orange Division 115-105 over Neuqua and was fourth in the White Division (96 points).
Eighth at state in 2018, Oswego co-op hopes to again be in the top-three trophy hunt. Cooper, Saturday’s Blue 50 (23.51) and 100 free (52.00) champion, will swim next season at Texas.
“I think we’re going to have a good finish at state. This year I think we’re bonding more than we have in past years and I think that’s been helping us perform better,” Cooper said.
Team bonding also has bolstered improvements in sophomores Molly Leubner and Corinne Guist.
They and Cooper won the Blue 200 free relay with senior Mikayla Jasek (1:37.19). Guist, Cooper, sophomore Lauren Wille and junior Alexa Szadorski won the Blue 400 free relay (3:33.4).
“I swam the 200 (free) last year. I’ve really focused on my 50 this year. I’ve done a lot more sprint work over the summer,” Leubner said. “The main thing is our team is so much closer. The girls are so supportive and that’s what’s really helping me get faster.”
Second-place Blue finishers were junior Skylar Ruggles (59.27 in 100 backstroke), Szadorski (59.17 in 100 butterfly), Wille (1:08.98 in 100 breaststroke) and the three with Jasek in the 200 medley relay (1:51.02).
Ruggles also receives credit for developing the best new Oswego team cheer.
“That one’s really fun. That one gets us pumped up a lot,” Guist said. “We cheer each other on. It’s nice to have that atmosphere.
“I feel like I’ve improved pretty well. I think the team has as a whole, too. Distance training has gotten more intense so I think that’s definitely helped.”
Benet was fifth in the Blue Division (56) and sixth in the Orange (43) and White (39).
Three-fourths of the state-qualifying 200 medley relay return with senior Jillian Devine (free), junior Tabitha Torres (breast) and sophomore Maura Fitzgerald (back). Junior Delaney Smith swam fly with them in the Blue medley (5th, 1:53.29).
Devine took second to Cooper in the Blue 100 free (55.46) despite sickness and just returning from a sprained foot.
“I feel OK where I’m at. I’ve really been working on my 100 free. That’s my goal, to go to state (individually),” Devine said.
“I was swimming next to Grace Cooper. That’s just huge for me because she has (Olympic Trials) cuts. It gets me excited to see that I have great competition.”