BY SAM SCINTA
The OTHS Girls Swimming team capped off a great season in the pool with a trip north to Evanston to compete in the IHSA Girls Swimming State Finals this past weekend.
The Panthers took 32nd place in two events in the water, with a team of senior Natalie Edwards and juniors Nicole Moran, Sierra Workman, and Hanna Barnes swimming in the 200 Yard Medley Relay Prelims, and Edwards swimming in the 500 Yard Freestyle Prelims.
The Medley team hit the pool amid stout competition from 36 teams hailing from every corner of Illinois.
Oak Park would win the event, finishing less than a second faster than second place New Trier. Neuqua Valley, Rosary, and Lyons would round out the top five.
Hinsdale Central, St. Charles North, and Oswego East would finish 6-7-8 while Stevenson and Loyola completed the top ten. Glenbrook North and Waubonsie Valley finished 11th and 12th respectively, making up the last of the finalist teams.
The Panthers would finish 32nd in prelims, almost three full seconds ahead of 33rd place Rock Island. Libertyville, Lincoln-Way East, and Fremd rounded out the rest of the field.
“I’m incredibly proud of the group we had in the pool,” Head Coach Suzanne Gibson said. “They had nothing left to give, and to compete like that on this big stage really says a lot about our girls.”
The Blue and Gold would be represented one more time during the competition, as senior Natalie Edwards capped off a great O’Fallon career with a prelims swim in the 500 Yard Individual Freestlye.
The star finished her sparkling high school tenure with a 40th place showing, finishing ahead of Riverside’s Julia Keller and Homewood-Flossmoor’s Evelyn Perl.
“Natalie is one of those rare kids that don’t come around that often,” Gibson said of her graduating senior. “She’s extremely well rounded and has a very bright future ahead of her, in the pool and in life.”
Loyola senior Ella Tierny won the State Title in the event, followed by St. Charles North’s Audrey Guyett. Noel Peplowski of Metamora finished third ahead of Maine South’s Annika Wagner and Barrington’s Maggie Emary.
As with the 200 Medley Relay, only the top 12 finishers advanced to Finals, so Edwards’ great season and career ended with her final lunge for the wall at the 5:17:40 mark.
The weekend completes a banner year for O’Fallon Swimming, and a wealth of returning talent, sans Edwards, has Gibson looking towards the future with glowing optimism for the program she has done such a good job building.