One more incoming freshman class like this and Evanston’s girls swim program is going to run out of pool space.

But head coach Kevin Auger isn’t about to complain about another wave of talent that will also provide depth necessary for dual meet and Central Suburban League South Division success.

The Wildkit girls, bolstered by a record turnout of 40 freshmen, open their 2018 season on Saturday at the Lake Forest Invitational. It’s an all-relay format that will give the ETHS coaching staff an early look at a lineup that should be dominated by sophomores and freshmen.

Auger, who also leads the Wildkit Swim Organization, has seen this wave of swimmers coming during the club season. Participation in the Illinois Swimming organization has increased for youth swimmers from approximately 24,000 boys and girls 10 years ago to close to 40,000 currently.

“We had a turnout of 32 freshmen last year, and THAT was a record for us until now,” Auger pointed out. “We’ll have over 100 girls overall and that’s just huge for us. I’m surprised at the turnout. It’s a blessing and it’s a curse all at the same time, because we only have so much space in the pool.

“The depth of swimming in Illinois is just crazy right now. During the high school season you’re always going to have the stars, but to make it into the top 6 or the top 12 at State has really gotten a lot more difficult over the past few years.”

As many as half a dozen freshmen could crack Evanston’s varsity lineup and will have the members of LAST year’s freshman class looking over their collective shoulders for the competition in their own pool. And the Class of 2021 set several records at the freshman conference meet last year, records that could fall again at the end of this year.

Add the return of a two-time state runnerup — diver Lucy Hogan — to the mix and ETHS has a program that is definitely on the rise.

Hogan, who placed 2nd at the Illinois High School  Association state finals in 1-meter diving as both a freshman and a sophomore, is back for her senior season after spending last year on the club circuit, focused on platform diving. That’s an event that isn’t offered during the high school season and it could be in Hogan’s future when she competes as a collegian.

For now, she’s back in a Wildkit uniform and will combine with another returning state qualifier, junior Jamie Otwell, to produce plenty of points in that specialty.

“Lucy seems excited to be back with us, and she’ll be one of the favorites for the state championship,” Auger said. “Obviously we could have used her last year, but when an elite athlete chooses to do something that they think can make them more elite, it just doesn’t always coincide with what the high school coach wants to do.

“Divers don’t have as many choices as swimmers do (during the high school season) and sometimes choices just have to be made. I understand that. Lucy’s such a nice kid and she’s willing to work and be a leader for the other divers, to show them what it takes to be an elite diver.”

Leading the latest wave of swimmers  in the incoming freshman class is Lily Consiglio, who already ranks as one of the fastest Kits in the butterfly and also owns a faster time in the 50-yard freestyle (24.5) than anyone of any class posted for Evanston last season.

Annika Macy,  a move-in from Michigan, is a swimmer to watch in the butterfly (1:01 range) and breaststroke (1:10), talents that will also translate well to a challenge for a spot in the varsity lineup in the individual medley.

Other freshmen of note could be Morrigan Bushroe-Stumpf in the backstroke (1:01) and 50 freestyle; Sophie Lammers in the 200 individual medley; Jenna Wild in the 200 freestyle (2:02); and Emma Nissan in the fly and IM.

From the sophomore class, only Erin Long (200 and 400 freestyle relays) and Mackenzie Tucker (400 relay) earned trips to State with the varsity at the end of last year. But as a class, that group improved so much that several others were knocking on the door of state qualifying performances and the only word Auger could use to describe them is “dominant.”

“They won their conference meet by a landslide and it’s a really dominant group,” the coach said. “We’ll probably have 8 sophomores in the lineup at Lake Forest and, to be honest, those are 8 of our best swimmers. The key for a lot of them is, can they jump up and keep moving forward and make the state cuts? Eight state qualifiers would be phenomenal, and even four would be great.”

Samantha Rhodes returns as a distance threat in both the 200 and 500 freestyle, unless Auger points her toward the breaststroke or 200 IM. “She could make the state cut in one of those races, or in all of them,” the coach predicted.

Erin Long should make a splash for the Kits in the 100 and 200 freestyle and her sister, Natalie, recorded the squad’s fastest 50 freestyle clocking at the intrasquad meet. Tucker hopes to carry over the momentum from a strong second half of last season in both the backstroke and IM and is poised to make the state cut in both.

Other sophs who can’t be ignored are Caroline Chapon (freestyle, IM), Anna Friedman (freestyle, fly), Claire Kennedy (breaststroke, 500 freestyle), and Josephine McCartney (fly).

Evanston’s leader in the backstroke figures to be junior Lane Raedle, who broke through in a big way last season and almost got under the state qualifying standards. “Lane was at 1:00.8 last year and she dropped time all year,” Auger pointed out. “She could hopefully be looking at a 58 or lower this year, and she’s also one of our top sprinters.”

Point production could also come from juniors Mina Dizdarevic (backstroke, sprint freestyle), Kiki Van Mieghem (fly, freestyle), Mimi Herrick (distance freestyle), Annie Lee (sprint freestyle) and diver Amelia Carson.

Among the seniors, Hogan isn’t the only one back in action for Evanston after a year’s absence. Cassie Tingey spent the past year studying in Finland in a Rotary Club program, and the layoff didn’t impact her speed in the 50 or 100 freestyle. The 100 will likely be her best event, but in preseason time trials she was only 4/10s off her career best clocking in the 50, too.

Seniors Hana Weber (1:08 breaststroke), Anna Clemson (distance freestyle), Hallie Seed (distance freestyle), Hannah Stein (breaststroke) and Hazel Gerber (breaststroke) also figure to make a splash.

Dennis Mahoney is sports information director for ETHS.

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

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