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CHESTERTON — Chesterton’s swimming pool is surrounded by history.

Decades of accolades, awards and accomplishments line every wall of the venue — reminding even causal viewers that the Trojans are a historic program, guided by a legendary coach.

Entering Saturday, Chesterton had won 19 consecutive Duneland Athletic Conference tournaments all under Kevin Kinel and the Trojans were determined to reel in another one.

With its home crowd cheering, and members of the boys program dressed up as mimes to show support, Chesterton dominated the field. The Trojans scored 551.5 points and won 10 of 12 events — leaving no doubt about who was the best team in the DAC.

“Our kids stepped up,” Kinel said. “Our young kids got real good championship experience. And our veterans came through both in the water and as leaders, so I’m very proud of them.

Senior Jaclyn Klimczak won the 200-yard individual medley and 100 backstroke, and was also a part of wins in the 200 medley and 400 freestyle relay. Her younger sister, sophomore Maisyn Klimczak, took home first place in the 200 freestyle and 500 freestyle, and also anchored a win in the 200 freestyle relay and earned a victory alongside Jaclyn Klimczak in the 400 freestyle relay.

But even with strong performances from the standout sisters, Kinel also praised Alana Jardenil. The freshman won the 100 breaststroke with a time of 1:05.30.

“For a freshman to come in and do that is awesome,” Kinel said. “There’s some great young kids on other teams here too, but I’m really proud of Alana. She came through in a big meet in a big way.”

Seizing the moment

Lake Central coach Todd Smolinski paced back in forth whenever his swimmers dove into the pool.

He knows they can’t see him and can barely hear him, but he can’t help himself. He waves his arm for them to swim faster and yells for them to give it their all. And in the Indians’ most competitive meet of the year, he felt like their hard work had finally come to fruition.

“We expected to come in here and try to compete and try to grab as many points as we can,” Smolinski said. “But they showed up just inspired today, and were ready to go. And just all across the board, they swam great.”

Lake Central finished second with 411 points, and sophomore Paige Bakker led the way. She won the 50 freestyle in 23.67 seconds and also took home first place in the 100 freestyle with a time of 51.74 seconds. In each race she was the only swimmer to break 24 seconds and 52 seconds, respectively.

“I’m just going way faster than I could have ever expected,” Bakker said. “But that drive is still there. I have a goal whiteboard up in my room, and I think I’m going to have to change a few of those goals after today. I’m definitely going to keep going and keep pushing because I definitely want to make top eight at state. That’s the real goal.”

Youngsters stepping up

Crown Point finished third at the DAC conference championship with 329.5 points, and assistant coach Blake Yeager said he was pleased with the Bulldogs' performance.

He joked and laughed with a few of his swimmers before heading for the bus. And after competing not only against some of the best teams in the conference but also the Region and state, one thing that stood out to him was the performance of Crown Point’s freshmen.

“Abbie Werner swam some of her best times in the 200 and 500 free by six or seven seconds,” Yeager said. “Emma Bahr swam some of her best times in the 100 back and 200 free. And then Kylie LaChapelle also dropped immense time in the 200 free and dropped immense time in the 100 free.”

As Crown Point looks to end the season on a high note, Yeager believes the breakout performances from his team’s young core will only boost their confidence.

“We’ve been working them really hard,” Yeager said. “And now being able to see some of the results come out of it, it’s going to be a step for us to prepare for sectionals and hopefully get down state.”


Sports Reporter

James Boyd is the Lake County prep sports reporter for The Times. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a proud native of Romeoville, Illinois. Before anything else, his main goal in life is to spread love and light.