After taking fifth in its sectional, not many people would have guessed that Plainfield North’s co-op girls swimming team would finish as a top-10 team at the state finals. Although, that wasn’t the mindset of the girls who competed for the co-op Nov. 22-23 in Winnetka.
Coach George Sam’s team finished 33 points better than it did in 2018, scoring 57 points, which tied them for eighth with St. Charles North. That marked the second time that a Joliet-area team placed in the top 10, with the other being Joliet West taking third in 1979-80.
Senior Jessica Davis took third in the 200-yard freestyle and fifth in the 100-yard freestyle, senior Kali Franckowiak was sixth in the 200-yard freestyle and 12th in the 500-yard freestyle and senior Samantha Kershner was 10th in the 100-yard butterfly, and those three joined junior Karley Sonnenberg to place seventh in the 200-yard freestyle relay and ninth in the 400-yard freestyle relay, which were both ordered Sonnenberg, Kershner, Franckowiak and Davis.
“I know that many people in the state didn’t give us a chance to even sniff the top 10, so we used it kind of as motivation,” Sam said. “All along our goals were that we wanted to do big things at state, and then about halfway through the year our relays really started to take shape. We got through conference and were dog-tired and went through sectionals partially tapered and got all the swims we got in and knew great things were going to happen.
“At state, it started right off the get-go with Jess [Davis] and Kali [Franckowiak] in the 200, and that kind of set the tone and it was back-to-back, and the 200-free relay just missed getting into the A finals, but the stage was set for us to be in the top 10. On Saturday, they came up big in the 200 and winning the consolation heat in the 200-free relay was enormous. It was fun to watch.”
Davis, who will compete at Boise State University, finished with 10 state medals, which is a area record. She tied Lincoln-Way’s Jenni Bean and Minooka’s Ashley Jones for the most individual medals with seven, which includes two thirds. Her four straight medals in the 100-yard freestyle, as well as Lockport’s Lindsey Merk’s four straight in the 100-yard butterfly on the same day, hadn’t been done before in this area.
“I was so happy with my performance,” Davis said. “Coach Sam always says to trust the process and believe in everything that we’re doing, and I really did that. This season Kali has pushed me more than ever, and my friends and teammates have always been there and are really motivators, and I think that helped a lot. We cried so much on the bus ride home and at the school since we didn’t want to say goodbye because it’s been a special part of our lives.
“My mom and my coach always tell me to believe in myself, and that always helps along the way. I keep going back to these girls since they’re part of the reason why things are so great. I’m so happy with what we’ve done during these four years, especially Kali. We’re going to the Mountain West [Conference] next year and still competing with each other.”
Franckowiak, who will compete at the University of Wyoming, is the fourth area swimmer with seven medals and she and Davis in the top six in an event is an area first. Kershner, who is going to compete at the University of North Carolina-Asheville, and Sonnenberg won their first state medals.
“Throughout the past four years, Jessica has definitely been the one that has pushed me the most because she was in the same events as me. It pushed me to want to do better,” Franckowiak said. “And with our other teammates in every practice we were pushing each other. They’re the ones, along with Coach Sam, that have let us accomplish these things.
“I definitely accomplished things that I’d wanted to do for the past couple of years, especially in the 500, which I had been just shy in, and I got it. That was one of the best things, along with the relays, they were like a dream come true. Those were some of the best swims I’ve ever been in, they were just the coolest things. It’s going to be hard to leave this.”