State-proven veteran talent gives Grafton a strong shot at another WIAA crown
After going undefeated in dual meets and winning WIAA sectional and state titles, what can a swimming and diving team do for an encore?
If you’re the Grafton High School girls’ squad, you reload for another run at pool supremacy and keep chalking up the victories.
“We’re hoping to pick up where we left off last season,” said Black Hawks coach John Douglass, whose team cruised to a Division 2 state crown in 2013.
“We lost a lot of talent to graduation, but we’ve got a lot of good kids back. We have a chance to be just as good, if not better.”
Douglass has plenty of reasons to keep the bar set high.
Although the Hawks lost standouts such as state qualifiers Stephanie Haebig (freestyle) and Paige Schommer (diving) to graduation, they have most of their top talent back in the fold.
Heading the list are senior Sam Senczyszyn and sophomore Autumn Haebig, who each won two individual events and swam on two first-place relays at last year’s state meet.
Senczyszyn placed first in the 50-yard freestyle (in record time) and 100 freestyle, while Haebig won the 100 butterfly (in record time) and 500 freestyle. Both were members of first-place 200 and 400 freestyle relays.
Senczyszyn, who has accepted a scholarship to swim at the University of Arizona next year, “is synonymous with success in high school swimming,” Douglass said.
“She’s talented, strong and extremely hard-working,” he added.
Haebig “is one of those rare talents, not unlike Sam, who can excel in a variety of events,” Douglass said.
“She really loves swimming, and it always shows. She’ll swim wherever we need her.”
Other state qualifiers back with the Hawks are seniors Rachel Hauer (seventh in the 100 breaststroke) and Gabby Kraus (third in diving), juniors Natalie Keshemberg (fifth in the 100 backstroke, sixth in the 100 butterfly) and Alyssa Seitz
(15th in diving) and sophomore Emma O’Brien (12th in the 50 freestyle).
“Rachel Hauer is probably the most dedicated swimmer on my team,” Douglass said. ”She has really stepped up in a leadership capacity,”
After placing third in diving at state each of the last two years, Kraus is determined to reach the top this season, Douglass said.
“She’s a very talented young lady. I fully expect her to be right there with the best in the state again,” he added.
Among the other swimmers returning to the Hawks’ program are senior Rachel Bauer, juniors Lilly Kaplan and Kaleigh Wallock and sophomore Samantha Douglas.
Grafton has also been bolstered by the arrival of Mallory Fox, a transfer student from Homestead High School. The sophomore will provide depth in the freestyle sprints.
“I really like this team. It’s a dedicated group that really understands how much work you have to put in to be successful,” Douglass said.
“We’re extremely optimistic. We have the talent to be one of the best teams in the state again.”
At the same time, Douglass is enough of a realist to note that the Hawks may not have the best girls’ team in Ozaukee County. That accolade belongs to Cedarburg, a Division 1 power that “is even stronger than it was last year,” he said.
“Cedarburg is so strong and so deep, no one will beat them in the (North Shore) conference,” Douglass added. “Without question, they are one of the top teams, if not the best team, in the state.”
Grafton defeated Cedarburg, 105-81, in a dual meet last year but finished second to its rival at the conference relays, conference final and Bulldog Invitational.
“I would like to say we will be the odds-on favorite as the conference runner-up,” Douglass said.
The Hawks will open the season at the Brown Deer Invitational on Saturday, Aug. 23.
Image information: SENIOR RACHEL HAUER is among a group of strong returning swimmers that should give the Grafton girls’ team an excellent chance of winning its second straight WIAA Division 2 championship this season. Photo by Sam Arendt