(Left to right) Laura Schuman, Taylor Hargraves, and Zoe Shields of the Harlem’s 2020 Girls Swimming and Diving Team are bringing home metals already.

By Bob Balgemann


The thinking that Harlem’s 2020 Girls Swimming and Diving Team was talented throughout its lineup of veterans and underclassmen, for this abbreviated season, has proven to be correct right off the bat.

In their season-opening meet against Belvidere Co-op, the Lady Huskies splashed to a 117-75 victory with freshman Zoe Shields, in her first varsity competition, winning four events as she set school records in two of them.

She won the 50-yard freestyle race in 26.38 seconds, establishing new freshman and sophomore records at Harlem; and the 500-yard freestyle in 5:43.15, which also was a Harlem freshman record. In addition, she finished first in the 50-yard backstroke, in 31.17 seconds; and the 100-yard breaststroke, in 1:15.91.

At the other end of the spectrum, seniors Taylor Hargraves and Laura Schuman combined to win seven events.

Hargraves, first team, all-conference selection last season, won four events. She captured the 200-yard individual medley (IM) in 2:28.82; the 100-yard butterfly in 1:04.10; the 100-yard freestyle in 1:01.10; and the 50-yard butterfly, in 29.68 seconds.

Schuman, also a first team, all-conference choice in 2019, won three races: the 200-yard freestyle in 2:15.73; the 50-yard breaststroke in 35.47 seconds; and the 100-yard backstroke in 1:08.38.

Others earning places in this meet were senior Haylee McGuire, two second places and two thirds; senior Arianna Kerchmar, two seconds and one third place; and junior Emma Rich, one second and one third; and junior Sheryl Wehde, one third. In addition, points were scored by sophomore Julianna Edwards, junior Stekenya Gibson and junior Paige Carpenter.

Auburn wins

In their second meet of the young season the Lady Huskies were defeated by Auburn, 116-91, as the Lady Knights captured 10 of 13 events.

This meet had diving competition with freshman Harlem Madilyn Rich taking second among five entries, recording 120 points among six dives.

Shields had another impressive showing, winning two events and taking second in two.

She competed in different events this time, winning the 50-yard breaststroke in 33.71 seconds, and the 50-yard butterfly, in 28.98 seconds. She was second in the 200-yard freestyle, clocked in 2:04.47, and the 100-yard IM, in 1:07.94.

Hargraves won the 100-year freestyle race in 1:00.90. She was second in the 50-yard butterfly, in 29.70 seconds, the 100-yard butterfly, in 1:07.16; and the 200 IM, in 2:31.25.

Schuman was the runner-up in the 50-yard freestyle, timed in 27.52 seconds, the 500-freestyle, in 5:58.52; and 100-yard backstroke, in 2:31.25. She also came in third in the 50-yard backstroke, in 32.14 seconds.

Other third-place finishes were registered by Rich, in the 100-yard freestyle, clocked at 28.92 seconds; Edwards, in 500-yard freestyle (6:20.59) and 100-yard breaststroke (1:25.45); Krechmar, in the 200-yard freestyle (2:24.36); and Gibson, in the 50-yard breaststroke (38.10 seconds.

Others securing places against Auburn were McGuire, Eissens, Wehde, Carpenter and junior Allison McDonald.

The swim team

The Lady Huskies have a new head coach this season and he is Todd Mueller. He started at Rockford East in 2014, when he was asked if he would be interested in taking over the boys’ head coaching position, since nobody else wanted to do it at that time. He spent two years as head coach, then served as an assistant coach for the Stateline Aquatic Team for five years. Last season, he volunteer for the boys’ team at Harlem, under then-head coach Kellie Eickstead. She since has left to become an assistant swimming coach at Beloit, Wis. College, leaving the vacancy that coach Mueller ultimately filled.

Returning Lady Huskies this season are Schuman in the freestyle, breaststroke, backstroke and IM; Hargraves, butterfly and freestyle; McGuire, distance and freestyle; Emma Rich, backstroke; and Kerchmar, breaststroke.

Contributions are expected from Shields, Gibson, Wehde, Edwards, seniors Trinity Eissens and Piper Richardson, and junior Allison McDonald.

In assessing his team before its first meet, coach Mueller said, “The team is just glad to be together, frankly. With everything they have been exposed to, and kept from doing, this is something they can look forward to each day. However, the way we conduct practice has been nothing like we have done in previous seasons.

“We are restricted to one swimmer per lane. We have 24 swimmers on the team. So we break our practices into four squads of six, with a captain on each squad. Practice each day could consist of either two or three stations, which are pool, track, or dry land. Squads practice for three days and take day four as a special recovery day at home, and do stretching with some yoga specifically designed for swimmers.”

Caitlin Heidenreich is the girls’ assistant coach, in her first year. She was a Harlem swimmer and diver, and a most valuable performer, who went on to graduate from Illinois State University.

“This is the first time I remember that we have a qualified diving coach on our team at Harlem, which makes Caitlin very special to our program going forward, building up our diving program and assisting the development of our swimming program,” coach Mueller said.



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