Erin Long didn’t get a chance to defend her conference championship in the 100-yard freestyle event Saturday.

But the Evanston junior did collect four medals — 2 of them for first place finishes — while leading the Wildkit swimmers to a second place team finish at the Central Suburban League South division championship meet held at Glenbrook North.

Long ruled the 200-yard freestyle event in a season best time of 1 minute, 55.15 seconds and also anchored the 200 freestyle relay team to a victory to account for the only first place finishes for ETHS. She also claimed 4th in an event she almost never swims — the 500 freestyle — and completed a busy day with her team’s second fastest split on the way to a runnerup performance in the 400 freestyle relay.

As a team, the Wildkits placed second with 399.5 points to 473.5 for champion New Trier. Glenbrook North (192), Glenbrook South (151), Maine South (127) and Niles West (48) followed in order.

Competing at the maximum yardage for most swimmers in any given meet, Long rose to the occasion and didn’t appear to have much trouble catching her breath at the conclusion of her effort.

“I’m tired — but it’s a good tired,” Long declared. “It was super fun to swim some different races today. In past years, we’ve swum the same events at both the conference and sectional meets, but this year the coaches decided to change it up. I’ll be in the 100 next week (at the sectional). I definitely have improved in the 100 this year and Coach (Kevin Auger) knows what I can do.

“Obviously it’s great to win a conference championship, but at this point it’s more about my times, and right now I am where I want to be.”

Auger decided not to enter defending champs Long and Samantha Rhodes (500 freestyle) in the races they won last year at the conference showdown. The veteran coach has his eyes on bigger prizes for both competitors — as well as their teammates — moving forward over the next two weeks.

“Last year was last year. As they all get better, conference is not what we’re aiming for this year,” Auger pointed out. “We know you can’t get up and swim fast 3 weeks in a row in the same race — unless maybe it’s the 50 freestyle — and swimming, unlike some other sports, is all about that final competition (state meet). We’re just looking at what’s best for each individual within the concept of a team.

“Erin swam a good 200 today. We’re just looking for progress and she did that today. She was a little faster on both of her relay swims, too.”

Long and junior teammate Mackenzie Tucker (1:55.68) placed 1-2 in the 200 freestyle, with ETHS’ No. 3 swimmer, sophomore Jenna Wild, fifth in 1:57.40. All three turned in season-best performances.

Long added a 4th in the 500 freestyle, in 5:13.09, then still had enough energy for an anchor split of 24.23 as the Wildkit unit of Lane Raedle, Tucker, Long and Lily Consiglio posted a winning time of 1:37.97 to spill top-seeded New Trier (1:38.78). It marked the second year in a row that the Kits have won the CSL South title in that event.

“My 500 was just OK. I was hoping to go under 5:10, but I’m not super upset or anything,” said the Evanston junior. “I just tried to keep up in the 500. To me, the 200 is harder than the 500. It feels pretty good to win the 200 because this is such a competitive conference. I had confidence in my ability (to win it) because I’ve been faster this year in my dual meets, and being in this conference really helps you focus on racing at this point. It prepares you to race at a high level the next 2 weeks.”

The quartet of Rhodes, Tucker, Erin Long and Natalie Long was clocked in 3:34.65 in the final 400 relay and was edged out by New Trier’s 3:34.10. The state qualifying standard is 3:34.82, so Auger knows his relays are right on track with postseason tests coming up.

“I expect both freestyle relays to score points at State this year,” said the coach. “They’re already a second and a half faster in the 400 than we were when we set our (school) record at State last year, and they’re not rested yet like those girls were.

“Our kids had almost all lifetime bests today, at least the ones who were rested, so I’m pretty happy with the results. And even if they missed a lifetime best in one event, they swam fast in their other three races. Overall I think it was a really good day.”

Consiglio, the defending CSL South champ in the 100 butterfly, settled for 5th this time around in 59.76 to 57.02 for the new champion, New Trier sophomore Leslie Wendel. Consiglio also took 6th in the open 50 freestyle in 25 flat.

Also scoring top 6 finishes for the Wildkits were Rhodes, 2nd in the 200 individual medley in 2:11.42 and 4th in the 100 breaststroke in 1:08.33; Tucker, 2nd in the 100 freestyle in 53.37; Natalie Long, tie for 2nd in the 50 freestyle in 24.56 and 5th in the 100 freestyle in 54.14; Raedle, 3rd in the 100 backstroke in 59.37 and 4th in the 50 freestyle in 24.76; Jamie Otwell, 5th in diving; Emma Nissan, 5th in the 200 IM in 2:14.05; Claire Kennedy, 5th in the 500 freestyle in 5:13.82 and 6th in the 100 breaststroke in 1:10.19; Annika Macy, 6th in the 100 butterfly in 1:00.79;  Caroline Chapon, 6th in the 100 freestyle in 54.20; and Wild, 6th in the 500 freestyle in 5:20.76.

The foursome of Raedle, Rhodes, Consiglio and Natalie Long also contributed a 3rd in the 200 medley relay in 1:49.26, just over a second slower than the state qualifying time.  

Dennis Mahoney

Dennis Mahoney is sports information director for Evanston Township High School.

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