IN THE SPOTLIGHT
First, the smiles.
And then, the caffeinated high-fives.
Moments after crushing the 500-yard freestyle at the Vernon Hills Sectional on Nov. 11 in dazzling — and demonstrative — fashion, Lake Forest High School’s Kendra Joachim stepped out of the pool and immediately was greeted by a grinning teammate, Ashley Updike.
One high-five was followed by another high-five followed by another one and then another one.
Smack, smack, smack, smack …
The slaphappy right hands of Joachim and Updike had turned into flapping, swift-moving propellers.
Mini wind turbines.
“That’s just something we do,” said a delighted Updike.
Sometimes, you just can’t hide your excitement.
And this … was one of those times.
Joachim came up with the race of the day. And, in the process, the sophomore put the state’s other distance aces on notice with her 4:58.55 clocking.
Joachim not only broke 5:00, but she also wound up beating Vernon Hills’ hot-shot freshman, Casey Craffey, by a comfortable margin (5:01.09).
“She couldn’t have executed the race any better than she did,” said Lake Forest head coach Carolyn Grevers.
Craffey entered the race as the odds-on favorite, having won the Lake Country Meet in 5:06.53. Her seed time was nearly 10 seconds faster than Joachim’s.
But Joachim, known as a fierce competitor, came up with the perfect blueprint for an upset win. She simply hung close during the first 18 laps. And then, all of sudden, she went into turbo mode.
“She didn’t [necessarily] go into the race with the intention of winning,” said Grevers. “She was more interested in getting her time [needing a 5:09.63 to qualify for state].
“We just told her to swim her race,” the coach added. “If you catch her, then go after it.”
With such a showing, Joachim is in a position to medal in the 500 free at this weekend’s state meet at New Trier. She heads to the showcase meet with the fourth-fastest sectional time behind St. Ignatius sophomore Madison Schiml (4:57.86), Normal West senior Melissa Pish (4:58.30) and St. Charles North senior Audrey Guyett (4:58.55).
Talk about elite company. Barrington’s Maggie Emary, a Florida State recruit, has the state’s fifth-best sectional time (5:59.29). She finished sixth in the event at last year’s state meet.
“This could build into something extraordinary for Kendra,” said Grevers. “She’s a powerful swimmer. Great strength. Great mental focus.”
The Scouts are known for their outstanding distance swimmers. Patsy Sullivan was a state champ in the 500 free (5:05.05) in 1983.
And then, there’s Rachel Stoehr, who went on to swim at the University of Arkansas. She won the state 500 free title (4:50.14) — as well as the 200 free — in the fall of 2010. She also took second in the state 500 free (4:53.40) during her junior season, after finishing sixth in state (5:08.04) as a sophomore.
Joachim, an import from New York (her family moved to Lake Forest when she was 3), also is a swimmer to watch in the 100 butterfly. Her time of 56.36 was more than enough beat the state standard, while it placed her second in the race behind Libertyville sophomore Emma Gleason (55.55).
Improving her 100 fly time by three seconds — and qualifying — was huge for Joachim.
She went into the race with plenty of incentive.
“Last year, I missed the state cut by a couple tenths of a second,” said Joachim.
Oh, the possibilities.
Her 56.36 ranks as the ninth-best sectional time at this weekend’s state meet.
Updike, who also teams with Joachim in club swimming (Scout Aquatics), knows all about Joachim’s high ceiling.
“What she did today doesn’t surprise me,” said Updike. “We all knew she could do this.”
Big meets don’t scare Joachim, who has been a decorated swimmer at the club level for years.
Being healthy and whole also helps. While recovering from a couple of foot surgeries and illness, Joachim had to play catch-up last season with the Scouts.
“It took her a while to get back into training,” said Grevers.
Joachim comes from an athletic family. Her father, Karl, was a football playing while growing up in New York City. Her mom, Laura, grew up in New Jersey and played basketball.
The swim gene? According to Karl, that came from her grandfather, Francois, who grew up in Haiti before moving to the U.S., and from a great, great grandfather on Laura’s side of the family.
Other sports? They don’t really have a chance with the athletic 6-foot-1 Joachim — an ex-volleyball player at Deer Path Middle School. Especially after Saturday’s sectional.
“It was a lot of fun swimming here [today],” she said. “Everyone’s having fun.
“There’s great energy,” the turbo-charged Scout added.
Notable: The Scouts finished fifth in the team standings (155 points) behind Vernon Hills (303), Warren (244), Libertyville (215) and Mundelein (202). The team’s other state qualifier is sophomore Julia Tanna, who qualified to state by taking second in four Athletes with Disabilities events: 200-yard freestyle (3:29.08), 50 free (46.21), 100 free (1:37.81) and 100 breaststroke (2:18.27). … Sophomore Ashley Updike had a couple of near-miss races. She took sixth in the 50 free with a lifetime best time of 24.87. She needed a 24.39 to qualify to state. Updike also took sixth in the 100 free with a career-best time of 54.15. The state-qualifying time is 53.03. “She’s been sick all week, which was unfortunate,” said LFHS head coach Carolyn Grevers. “She’s proud of her times, but upset that she didn’t qualify.” … LF’s best relay finish came in the 200 free. Updike, Isabella Lewin, Emily Robinson and Kendra Joachim teamed up to swim a 1:41.38 (4th place). The foursome needed a 1:38.23 to advance. … Diver Isabel Rosa capped off her career with a ninth-place finish (354.00). She was 20 points away from earning the final at-large berth.