Written by Dennis Mahoney.
Ana Woods missed some practice time earlier in the high school swimming season due to an ear infection and some other physical woes.
But the sophomore standout showed Saturday that she’s ready to make up for lost time. Woods scored top six individual finishes in both the 100-yard breaststroke and 100 freestyle events and helped lift the host team to a third place finish in the team standings at the Evanston Invitational.
Inactivity kept Woods from posting fast enough times in either race to qualify for the fastest heat at the invite. Undeterred, she came on to place second in the breaststroke (1 minute, 8.13 seconds) and fifth in the 100 freestyle (54.95) with season-best clockings in both events.
Evanston climbed to third from last year’s fifth place team finish. Coach Kevin Auger’s squad totaled 4,507 points on the NISCA (National Interscholastic Swim Coaches Association) power points table used to determine the standings and trailed only Loyola Academy (5,610) and Lake Forest (5,372) in the 10-team field.
Trailing the Wildkits in order were Peoria Notre Dame (4,469), Germantown of Wisconsin (3,321), Oswego (3,091), Jacobs/Hampshire (2,776), Northside College Prep (2,717), University High (2,320) and Chicago Latin (1,469). The meet format allowed schools to enter four individuals and two relay teams per event.
Host Evanston turned in almost 100 percent season best times and scored 10 top six finishes overall. Points, however, are awarded based strictly on times compared to the NISCA points table.
“Ana has swum more freestyle than breaststroke this year, although she did have a 1:10 earlier,” Auger pointed out. “We knew she’d go faster today, but that 1:08 is really going faster. And we feel like we’re going to get more out of her yet, too. Her training has been a little off, but we know she’s got more in her.
“We had a lot of times all day long that were best times, or right on their best times. I’m pleased with where we are right now because we’re going into some pretty hard training over the next couple of weeks. It’ll be harder to get the good times then.”
Woods also teamed with Honore Collins, Iana Wolff and Millie Rosen to claim second in the 200-yard medley relay in 1:50.81, just behind champion Germantown’s 1:50.07. Evanston’s depth in that event was evident when the ETHS “B” team of Paige Haden, Rosselyn Lopez, Maddie Managlia and Payton Gibson placed sixth in 1:54.76.
Auger said the competition remains fierce in that particular race for hopefuls who want to land a spot in the postseason medley lineup. To give the veteran coach added flexibility, both Woods and Lopez are versatile enough to swim either the breaststroke or freestyle portion of that race without the Kits skipping a beat in their bid for some kind of top state meet finish.
“What I saw today was two really solid relays, and we had them split up so we could score more points,” the coach noted. “We do need to get faster in the freestyle there, but Rosen gave us a good split (in 25.4).”
The Evanston foursome of Collins, Rosen, Haden and Alyssa Nichols moved up to sixth place in the 400 freestyle relay after only being seeded seventh coming into the meet. But the Wildkits lost a chance for even more relay glory (and more points) when the 200 freestyle relay team was disqualified.
Collins also contributed a third in the 200 individual medley, chopping almost a full second off her previous best clocking with a 2:13.57. Later, she added a sixth in the backstroke in 1:00.64.
“Honore is starting to look like someone we can really count on in the backstroke and IM,” Auger said. “She’s having a great year for us. She’s gained more confidence and I think she’s more comfortable this year. She’s put the training in, and she’s seeing it pay off for her.”
Wolff placed sixth in both the 50 freestyle (25.57) and 100 butterfly (1:00.04) for ETHS.