Parkhe, Hayes, and Gridley Smash Illinois HS Records At State Prelims

Friday, November 12th – Saturday, November 13th
Westmont, Illinois
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Illinois’ top high school female swimmers stormed the FMC Natatorium on Friday afternoon to compete at the 2021 IHSA girls swimming & diving state meet. This is the first time in IHSA History that the state competition will be held in Westmont’s new facility, which features 27 lanes of usable space and seating for around 1,200 spectators. Previously, because of a rule in the state that the meet must be hosted at facilities with seating on three sides, it used to be on a hosting rotation between New Trier and Evanston High Schools: older pools that didn’t necessarily maximize athletes’ speed, were shallow, and/or lacked warm up/cool down space.

Illinois hasn’t hosted a high school state competition since March of 2020, and between that pent-up energy and faster water, the athletes went big in the new facility’s first state championship hosting duty. There were a total of five individual IHSA state records broken at Friday’s prelims session.

In the first individual event of the evening, sophomore Annika Parkhe dominated the 200 freestyle (1:46.15), splitting 52.0/54.1 to break Rachel Stege‘s state record (1:46.66) from the 2019 state meet. Stege won a bronze medal for Team USA in the 400 free at the 2019 World Jr. Championships and is currently a freshman with the University of Georgia.

Stege (2019) – 1:46.66
Parkhe (2021)

In the 100 fly, Parkhe took advantage of her underwaters to break Olivia Scott’s 100 fly state record (53.09). With that swim, Parkhe becomes the first Illinois female swimmer to break 53 seconds in the event (52.72). Prior to Friday, Parkhe’s best time was 54.64, a time she had gotten 6 days earlier at the IHSA Sectionals in Lake Forest.

The sophomore class continued to dominate as Leah Hayes set two state records as well. Hayes was nothing short of dominant in her 200 IM, as she led wire-to-wire and knocked 3.5 seconds off the previous IHSA record. Hayes (1:56.66) is now the first female swimmer in IHSA history to break 2:00 in the 200 IM. The previous state record was held by Maine South’s Annika Wagner (2:00.23) who now swims at Northwestern.

Three events later, Hayes also broke the IHSA state record in the 100 free. New Trier’s Carly Novelline (49.12) is the #2 qualifier heading into finals. Hayes and Novelline were both competing with Team USA at the FINA World Cup Series in Berlin and Budapest. Novelline swam a pivotal leg on Team USA’s gold medal 4×50 free relay that set a new World Jr. Record earlier last month.

The final state record of the night was set in the last individual event: the 100-yard breaststroke. New Trier’s Kaelyn Gridley took advantage of her seeding and was out in a blistering 28.41, which was the fastest leadoff 50 in the entire field. She held her stroke together through the finish, splitting a 31.51 on the back 50 to break 1:00 for the first time in her career. Gridley’s 59.92 marks her as the only Illinois female swimmer (in high school competition or otherwise) to break 1:00 in the 100 breast. Her 1:00.45 from earlier this year was the former LSC Open Record.

Ema Rajic, who competed at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics with Croatia, held the previous state record at 1:00.77. Rajic also competed for Cal, where she’s the school record-holder in the 100 breast (58.45) and helped the golden bears to win the 400 medley relay at the 2019 NCAA Championships.

While Parkhe (DEER) and Hayes’ (KANE) individual efforts were stunning, they most likely won’t have a significant affect on the overall team scores. Based on prelims results, New Trier is expected to win the state title, while Hinsdale Central and Rosary will have a tight battle for 2nd place overall.

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