Middleton swimmers aiming high

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By: 
Rob Reischel
Paige Prestigiacomo and Middleton’s girls swimmers are gunning for a fourth straight Big Eight Conference title this season./Times-Tribune photo by Mary Langenfeld

The bar has been raised.

Heck, the bar has been placed somewhere between Mars and Jupiter.

And really, Middleton’s girls swimming program wouldn't have it any other way.

But the Cardinals, who have won three consecutive Big Eight Conference championships, will have their hands full maintaining that standard of excellence this fall.

Middleton lost nearly half of its varsity lineup to graduation. But if there’s been one constant to Lauren Cabalka’s program it’s that the Cardinals reload and don’t rebuild.

“With nearly half of our varsity team being new, it will take us a while to figure out the best lineup and best combinations, but it is not something we are scared about,” said Cabalka, whose team begins its season Friday by hosting Beloit Memorial. “Our girls have stepped up, year-in and year-out, and I anticipate nothing less this season.  

“This might be our most dedicated and determined group yet, which will serve them well as we approach tough meets and post-season competition. I am very excited to watch this group grow and look forward to the many successes they will undoubtedly have.”

The Cardinals have certainly had sensational success under Cabalka. Middleton was fourth at the WIAA Division 1 state meet the past two years and third in 2010.

With so many holes to fill, staying at that lofty level will be extremely difficult. But based on the Cardinals’ recent history, it would seem foolish to bet against them.

“If we want to move up in the state rankings, we absolutely have to qualify the majority, if not all, of our swimmers and relays to state,” said Cabalka, whose beginning her sixth season as Middleton’s coach. “We've been very close to doing this in the past and I expect nothing less of this group. They certainly have what it takes, so I wouldn't be surprised if this team was able to make it happen.  

“Along with qualifying, we need to have relays and individual swims that not only score points (top-16), but also place in the top-six, where the big points are. We have some returning swimmers who scored at last year’s meet and we will look to them to lead the way and show the new swimmers what it takes to get there.”

Middleton does have a solid core of returnees it will build around.

Senior Ashley Aegerter is a standout in both the 200 IM and the 100 breatststroke. And Cabalka is expecting a big year from her.

“Nobody works harder than Ashley in the water,” Cabalka said. “She is extremely dedicated to the sport of swimming and determined to set high goals for herself. She is a great example for others to follow and will have an important leadership role this season. I certainly see her as a conference champion in both events and someone who is certainly capable of a state title as well.”

Senior Karley Licking is recovering from an offseason injury. When healthy, though, Licking is a standout in both the 200 IM and the 500 freestyle.

“If I know one thing about Karley it's that she will not allow obstacles to get in her way,” Cabalka said. “Although it will take her a bit longer to reach the level of success she had last season, I have no doubt that she will surpass all of the goals she has for herself and have her brightest season yet. She is truly a special young woman, who our team is lucky to have.”

Sophomore Victoria Lin helped set a school record last year in the 200 medley relay and earned all-American honors in the process. This year, Cabalka will call on Lin to contribute in the 100 butterfly and 100 backstroke, as well.

Victoria had a sensational freshman season and played a key role in our highly talented team,” Cabalka said. “She was pretty much a one event swimmer last season, so we will be pushing her to build up that 100 butterfly and hopefully be a two event qualifier at this year's state meet.”

Junior Paige Prestigiacomo qualified for state her first two years and should shine this season in both the 200 freestyle and the 100 freestyle.

Paige has played a key role in our team each year she has been here and has been a state team swimmer from the start,” Cabalka said. “She was elected captain by her teammates for this season, which shows how much respect she has earned from the girls.  

“Paige leads by tremendous example, both in and out of the water, and has those intangibles that you simply can't teach. She has come to us physically and mentally stronger than ever before and I expect this to be her most successful season yet.”

Middleton has a handful of talented veterans and newcomers it will also build around.

Senior Olivia Kossel has developed into one of the Cardinals’ top sprinters during her time in the program.

Olivia has an incredible attitude and is on pace to have her most successful season yet,” Cabalka said. “I know qualifying for the state meet is a goal of hers and I would not be at all surprised to see her there this season.”

Sophomore Sam Roll is one of Middleton’s top sprinters and she’ll also play a large role on the Cardinals’ relay teams.

Sam came back much stronger and faster than where she started last season, so I am very excited to see how this contributes to her growth and success this season,” Cabalka said. “Sam has a very positive demeanor and helps to lead the team through her work ethic and attitude. We have a very tough conference in the sprint events, but I expect her to be right up there near the top this season.”

Freshmen Tryn Peterson, Margaret McGill and Maggie Go have all impressed early and will be counted on to play large roles.

Madison Memorial, Verona and Madison West are all expected to have power-packed teams. And that should make the Big Eight Conference race as interesting as ever.

“This is probably the toughest year since I have been with the program,” Cabalka said. “We have been incredibly successful the past three years and the conference teams certainly have their eyes on us.  

“We will have to be at our best when we swim against them as we have less wiggle room than before. That said, I have a lot of confidence in this team and know that we can continue to lead the Big Eight if the girls keep working hard and pushing themselves outside of their comfort zones to improve.”

That’s always been the case with Cabalka’s teams.

There will certainly be huge challenges this season. But everyone inside Middleton’s program is expecting another terrific season.

“We can be as good as we want to be, really,” Cabalka said. “Success comes from each individual's desire to be great and, so far, there is a lot of determination behind those goggles.  

“Of course we want to be at the top of the conference again and qualify as many girls on to the state meet as we can. It is a tough race this year, but a challenge that we will embrace. The Big Eight is by far the state's strongest conference and one that we are excited to be a part of. Swimming against teams like these only makes us stronger.”

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