Friars ready to make splash in playoffs

Team that finished second at state last two seasons has one goal in mind

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Brad Spencer

Contributing Reporter

Come November, the Fenwick girls swimming and diving team hopes to complete some unfinished business.

Last year, the Friars came within 10 points of winning the program's first state title. The year before that it was 15 points that separated the team from championship glory. For head coach Renee Miller and her aqua girls, this is the year they hope to make history.

"The team has been working really hard during the season and they put in the time in the offseason. On an individual level they trained extensively over the summer," Miller said. "There's a goal in mind and it's not an unspoken one. The girls know what they want to accomplish as a team."

Miller believes that this is the most talented group she's coached in her 15 years at the helm of the girls' program. She punctuates the assessment with, "by far."

Mimi Schneider, Paulina Kaminski, Colleen Barron and Maggie Sheean are all seniors on the team with state experience. Schneider, who has been mulling over swimming at Texas, Georgia or USC, holds three individual team records at Fenwick: The 50-free (22.83), the 100-fly (53.57) and the 100-free (51.11). She says the entire team is aware of the urgency.  

"As seniors, this is our last shot at winning state; we've been so close in the past and we know what's at stake," Schneider said. "Everyone is all in, fully committed to doing what needs to be done, and we're not swimming too slowly either, so we'll take that." 

Schneider traveled to Dubai in August and competed as a member of the U.S. Junior National Team. Along with Baron, she was a member of Fenwick's 200 medley relay team that took first at state last season with a time of 1:41.87. 

"Mimi is the ultimate competitor and leader," said Miller of Schneider who has starred on varsity since her freshman season. "She's the whole package. Every year she's willing to swim any event, sacrificing individual event records because she is so team oriented."

Last year, Schneider finished second in the 100 butterfly (54.36). She also helped the 400 free relay (3:25.25), and the 200 free relay (1:33.36) to second place finishes.

"She's definitely one of the best we've had here at Fenwick," Miller said. "She has worked really hard to get to this point, as have all our seniors. They've all really been great role models for our young swimmers."

The leadership has been prevalent during the regular season as younger swimmers have had to step up for meets when these four senior stars have been pulled away for college recruiting visits and club tournaments. Wins over Rosary and a second-place finish at the Carl Sandburg invite, among other successes, Miller says, "is testament to the seniors and the leadership they provide."

Last season, Schneider, Barron and Sheean helped swim the 200-free relay to a second place finish (1:33.46). Schneider and Kaminski were members of the 400-free relay team that also placed second at the state meet last year.

Fenwick will for sure have to outswim New Trier in the Trevians' home pool to make school history. The Trevians aren't new to hefting state title hardware. The program has won the last three titles and has finished in the Top 5 every year since the 1997-98 season.

"New Trier is on our minds all the time," Schneider admitted, "but their past success has motivated us to work harder. Although swimming can at times be unpredictable, we feel a state title is within our reach this season." 

Miller shares the same optimism as her star swimmer.    

"They trained over the summer and will swim these next few weeks with one goal in mind, and that's winning the ultimate trophy," said Miller of her determined squad. "I believe they will be ready to give it their best."

The IHSA State Swimming and Diving Sectional begins Nov. 16, while the State Meet is scheduled for Nov. 22.

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