Hancock's record IM swim paces Wildkit qualifiers

Clio Hancock has nothing but respect for one of the swimmers who preceded her as the top competitor for Evanston’s girls swimming and diving program in the 200-yard individual medley event.

But that didn’t keep the ETHS senior from knocking Honore Collins out of the school record book Saturday at the Glenbrook South Sectional meet.

Hancock wiped out Collins’ record in the IM with her second place finish behind Maine South star Annika Wagner, then qualified in the 100 butterfly and 400 freestyle relay to lead the Wildkits to a second place finish in the team standings behind perennial state power New Trier.

The Wildkits also qualified in the 200 freestyle relay and advanced diver Jamie Otwell to next Friday’s Illinois High School Association state finals set for the New Trier High School pool. The Kits survived one of the state’s fastest sectionals --- seven pool records were set overall  Saturday --- on their way to a 2nd place finish with 165 points to New Trier’s 297.

Hancock qualified in the IM for the second straight year, with a time of 2 minutes, 4.96 seconds that easily eclipsed the previous record of 2:06.39 set by Collins in 2014. Wagner posted the winning time of 2:03.62 in a race where three other finishers also beat the establishing IHSA qualifying standard.

“I was only about one second off the record at the end of last year, and I’ve had my eye on it for a couple of years now,” said Hancock. “It means a lot to me to get it, because Honore Collins has been my inspiration for all that she’s done (Division III All-American in college). I felt good at practice all week and this year I stayed focused and didn’t let myself get distracted in the fly like I did last year.

“Overall in the IM I’m just going out faster and coming back harder. My back 50 has really come around this year. Now I’d like to be in the top 12 in both races (IM and butterfly) at State. I’d rather not watch after the prelims again this year.”

Hancock cut four seconds off her seed time for the race, and later placed 7th in a hot butterfly race with a personal  best time of 57.52. She joined six other competitors who beat the IHSA qualifying time, then combined with Erin Long, Mackenzie Tucker and Katy Donati for a 3rd place time of 3:33.92 in the 400 relay. Hancock’s contribution in that race was a leadoff split of 53.24.

“We had a lot of lifetime bests today and that’s pretty awesome!” exclaimed ETHS head coach Kevin Auger. “The only thing that really got away from us today was the (non-qualifying in 5th place) 200 medley relay.

“I expected Clio to get that IM record today, but I didn’t expect a 2:04. That was really a nice surprise and Clio is really starting to come into her own now. Now I think she feels like she belongs with the elite swimmers. Her improvement over the last 2 years has just been incredible, and today should be a real shot in the arm for her confidence.

“Her success is directly related to her training, because she trains faster and harder than anyone else. She actually started to improve like this at the end of last year when we changed her turn from backstroke to breaststroke, and now she’s killing people with it.”

Hancock and fellow senior Donati rose to the occasion and delivered when the young Wildkits --- dominated in the team scoring by freshmen and other underclassmen most of the regular season --- needed them most.

Donati teamed up with Lane Raedle, Erin Long and Leah Friedman to post the exact time necessary --- 1:38.23 --- to move on in the 200 freestyle relay. Her split of 23.97 was a season best, just like her 53.37 in the 400 relay.

“Katy’s a senior and we knew she’d be there at the end for us,” Auger praised. “She had a drop of almost a full second in the 100 and for a senior, that’s a big drop in that race. Last year she had shoulder issues (eventually resulting in surgery this past summer) and we had to take it easy on her with her training. This year both her training and her attitude have been just great, and she and Clio have given great guidance to the younger girls.

“That last (400) relay was really blazing for us, too (almost a full 5 second drop). The two freshmen in there, Long and Tucker, each dropped about 2 and a half seconds. I knew they could get there physically, but emotionally it’s hard to get up week after week after week like you have to at the end of the high school season. It’s not quite like age-group swimming.”

Otwell earned one of the state’s 32 at-large berths in diving, with sectional champs automatically advancing in that specialty. The ETHS sophomore, competing in the sport for the first time this year, placed 7th at the sectional with a season-best score of 381.05 points. Defending state champion Jessie Creed of New Trier won with a total of 556.40, a pool record.

Among the non-qualifiers for the Wildkits, top finishers included freshman Samantha Rhodes, 4th in the 500 freestyle in 5:12.86; Donati, 5th in the 200 freestyle in 1:57.46; Raedle, 5th in the 100 backstroke in 1:00.08; and senior Kathleen Shotwell, 6th in the 500 freestyle in 5:14.10.

Dennis Mahoney is sports information director for ETHS.

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