Loyola senior Alex Haitz said the scene at Evanston’s natatorium on Friday for the preliminaries of the state meet will create both excitement and pressure for her.
But Haitz said she believes the electric and overwhelming atmosphere will benefit her as she competes on the final weekend for the first time in her career.
“I think it will be inspiring,” Haitz said. “Everybody wants to be there, and everybody is expecting to do well. I think it will add to my performance.”
Haitz qualified for the state meet in the 50-yard freestyle after posting a personal-best time of 24.35 seconds at the Deerfield Sectional on Saturday. She’s one of eight Loyola swimmers who extended her season. Two Rambler divers also advanced to the state meet, which starts Friday with the preliminaries and concludes Saturday with the consolation and championship finals.
A four-year varsity swimmer, Haitz was the feel-good story of the sectional meet, according to Loyola head coach Mike Hengelmann.
“Our bench went wild when she qualified,” he said. “It was her last chance to get to the state meet for the first time. It was really cool and emotional moment for the team.”
Haitz admitted she was nervous before the 50 at the sectional, but she said her preparation enabled her to perform well. She eclipsed the state cut by 11/100ths of a second.
“You never know what can go wrong, but it was reassuring that I’ve practiced it so much over my four years,” she said. “I was really happy I made [the state meet]. I’ve had close friends who have been big contributors to the state team, so it’s nice to know I finally will be representing my team as an individual.”
One of Haitz’s best friends, Loyola senior Olivia Andrew, qualified for the state meet in four events. She will swim on two relays (200 free, 400 free) and in two individual events (200 free, 100 butterfly). Andrew, who recently signed with UCLA, finished first in the fly in 55.59, the second-fastest time at the 16 sectionals.
Loyola senior Ella Tierney, who signed to swim at Texas, also advanced to the state meet in two relays (200 free, 400 free) and two individual events (200 free, 500 free). Tierney won both the 200 and 500 freestyle races and will be a contender for a state title in both events, Hengelmann said.
The Ramblers, who took second to New Trier at the sectional, qualified three relays and 12 individual entries to the state meet.
As a freshman and sophomore, Haitz wasn’t part of Loyola’s postseason lineup. As a junior, she ended her season at the sectional meet.
“Even thinking about qualifying for the state meet now,” Haitz said Monday, “is making me emotional. It’s been main goal of mine throughout high school.”