Smoliga has help from Titan teammates
When talking about Glenbrook South’s girls swimming team, the conversation usually starts with Olivia Smoliga.
For good reason, too.
The Titans junior, a two-time state champion and state record-holder, is one of the best in the world for her age group.
But Smoliga’s not alone, and she will be the first to announce that.
In fact, she’s even considering sacrificing an individual event this year to swim three relays at the state series in an effort to give Glenbrook South its best shot as a team.
“She’s on board, and her parents are on board,” Glenbrook South coach Kelly Timson said. “It’s whatever is best for the team. That’s sometimes the toughest battle, to convince someone to give up an individual event. But Olivia’s all about the team, and she understands that concept. She wants to do what’s best.”
In what could be the most competitive state meet ever, Timson thinks the Titans have an opportunity to finish in the top five. Glenbrook South took fourth in 2007 and has placed inside the top 10 in five consecutive seasons.
“Our goal is the top five,” Timson said. “Our dream goal is finishing in the top three.”
Although Smoliga, who will compete in the Olympic Trials next summer, is foundation of the Titans, several other girls will contribute to building Glenbrook South into one of the best clubs in the state.
Hallie Hengels is back after a standout season as a junior. She took 10th in the 100-yard breaststroke and helped the 200 medley relay finish fourth.
“She’s already starting out much faster this year than she did last year,” Timson said. “She narrowly missed out on the championship finals last season for the breaststroke, and that kind of left her hungry for this season.
“She’s put in a lot of work, and she’s been amazing in practice. She’s a key piece of our team goal.”
Kim Durkin is another returning swimmer who competed on the final Saturday of last season. The junior swam butterfly on the 200 medley relay, and Timson sees no reason why Durkin can’t be an individual qualifier this year.
“She’s an excellent trainer,” said the coach, who is working Durkin at 200 free and 500 free. “She pushes everybody to stay with her. Every set of hers is 100 percent.”
Niki Wells is the fourth member back from last year’s medley relay.
Katie Wells is a varsity rookie who’s impressed Timson so far this season. Wells proved her value earlier this season by swimming the anchor leg of the 400 free relay against Deerfield.
“We knew she was talented, and we knew her times before she came,” Timson said. “But she’s exceeded our expectations in meets and practices. She never gives the bare minimum. She’s even pushing the upperclassmen. That’s good because the rest of the team is training faster.”
The Titans took first place with 131 points last weekend at Glenbrook North’s Sprint Classic. Four CSL teams were in the eight-team field. Glenbrook South collected eight first-place finishes, including two each from Smoliga and Hengels, whose 1:07.85 was under the state cut.