At the IHSA Girls Swimming Sectionals last Saturday, November 12, the Uni High team took home five pool records, two state qualifying relays, and two individual qualifiers for the state meet this weekend in Evanston. The team also won third place overall. The meet was held at the Centennial High School Pool.
Going into the meet, the team was excited, but they were concerned because they had tapered late and were tired. However, the feeling totally changed after the first event, which was the 200 medley relay. It included freshman Reed Broaders, sophomore Angelynn Huang, and seniors Ema Rajic and Ellie Atkinson. Their time of 1:48.15 was both a pool record and a state qualifying time.
Their victory set a precedent for the rest of the meet. “Everyone was so hyped up because of the relay,” said Huang. The rest of the meet went similarly. “It was absolutely surreal because everyone was PRing by an insane amount. I never swam that fast before.”
When the time came for the 200 freestyle relay, the team brought back the strength and speed they had been working on all season. The first swimmer was Atkinson, who had swum the 500 freestyle just before. Next were junior Raine Bernhard and Broaders, who pushed the team closer to the leading spot. Rajic anchored the team with yet another pool record, sectional win, and state qualifying time of 1:37.76.
Broaders qualified as an individual in the 100 butterfly as well as in the 50 free. She swam 1 second faster than her best in the freestyle, and 4 seconds faster in the butterfly. She is seeded 6th in the freestyle and 3rd in the butterfly at the IHSA State meet.
Rajic also qualified as an individual in the 200 individual medley and 100 breaststroke. Last year, she broke the state record at the sectional meet at the Urbana Aquatic Center and then broke her own record for a win at the state championships. This year, she came back to the sectional meet and while she did not get a personal record, she broke the pool record in both events.
“I wasn’t super happy with them,” said Rajic. However, she had not tapered yet, so she fully expected it.
She is excited going into state though, “Taper is finally kicking in. The energy at practice is really high.” For her, having teammates this year is the most important thing.
“The team connection was really emphasized at sectionals,” said Huang, and Rajic added, “I had an insane amount of adrenaline for the relays and not as much for the individuals.”
“For Uni to have six people going to state, that’s unprecedented,” said Rajic. The team will face big Chicago schools with big sections of fans supporting them. At the annual Fall Sports Award Ceremony, Coach Dave Young asked the audience to cheer as they would at a meet, so that the swimmers could visualize Uni High fans cheering for them.
The swimmers’ victories were all due to extremely hard work this season. Huang testified to the increase in daily yardage, as well as the focus on strength training. Rajic said she was in a constant state of soreness for three months. But that was the amount of work that they needed to swim that well at sectionals.
Looking forward, there is obviously pressure for Rajic to win state again this year. However, having her team there is enough for her, and no matter how they do, this is will be an incredible achievement for Uni High sports, with a superb group of swimmers to carry on the legacy.