Sixteen-year-old Gia Dalesandro of Naperville is leading the swimming team to places it's never been before.
Just last weekend the junior, who garnered two state medals last year, led the Wildcats to victory at the prestigious Rosary Invitational. The Wildcats became the first team besides Rosary to win the meet.
Dalesandro won the backstroke in 58.57 seconds and the 100 butterfly in 56.92. She has the top time in the state in both races.
Now Dalesandro and her teammates have their sights set on a state trophy.
Does the swim team have a hangout in town, whether for breakfast or dinner, or is it pretty much get to practice in the morning and get home after practice at night? Especially on school days, that's what we'll do. We'll go to practice as fast as we can so we can do our homework, go to bed and then see each other back in the morning. Especially for morning practices it's nice, because the moms will bring breakfast in for us. It's awesome. We get bagels and granola bars and fruit and juice to replenish our muscles after practice, because if it were up to us, I'd have like maybe a granola bar and a pop tart and be on my way. On the weekends, if we do team-building stuff, we'll go out to breakfast after practice or go out to dinner. We went to (), downtown Naperville, two weekends ago.
Swimmers pretty much have their head in the water for the majority of practice? How do you all make time to socialize and get to know one another? That's actually a good question. I actually feel like in between sets, when you get a water break or a drink break, we mess around and joke with each other and talk about our day. We have a partner for dry land (workouts), and normally it's one of your friends. But I mean we basically do a lot of team-building stuff outside the water. Like we went to dinner and we go to a corn maze thing every fall — we normally do it closer to Halloween.
The team's coming off a huge success at the Rosary Invitational. Is labeling that first-time victory a huge success an understatement? How big was that win? It was pretty big. I can't deny that. That we won that was crazy. I think last year we didn't even get second; I think we might have gotten third. So it kind of came out of nowhere. I don't know if I should say nowhere, but I didn't expect it. I thought we were gonna lose, but I'm like so proud of us, so proud of our team. I think we're doing the right things, and it's paying off. Like, it's showing. There's definitely a few things we can brush up on where we are right now, but it's a good sign.
At what point during the meet did you think you might actually win? Going 1-2-3 in the 50 free was huge. We all got excited. We were all like, 'Wow, we can actually do this.'
There's nobody left from the 2006 Neuqua team that earned a trophy at the state meet. Is the winning tradition still present and strong? Good question. I think we're all hungry for it. Girls used to be the joke of swimming and diving, because the boys used to be so good. They were like, 'Yeah, we won state, we got second, we go third, where have you guys been? Oh, 42nd.' (laughter). They used to joke about that to us, and now we're hungry for it. We want to be like, 'Oh, yeah, we're right here. Where are you guys? Like, down there?' So we want to get back at the boys and show them we're actually good and working hard. And I think we want to prove to the rest of the state that it's not something to joke about and that we're serious and we want it just as bad as everybody else does.