Girls Swimming: Lincoln-Way West senior quartet eyes final challenge
By Tim O’Brien For Sun-Times Media November 3, 2013 11:00PM
Shannon Soukup (from lefr), Tori Tiberi, Kailey Gallagher and Gena Tanquilut are four-year varsity swimmers for Lincoln-Way West.
Updated: December 5, 2013 6:15AM
Heading to swim practice each day, Lincoln-Way West senior Gena Tanquilut walks by the pictures on the wall.
Conference winners, teams and individuals, All-Area, All-State, postseason honors, they’re all there.
“We’re the second full senior class to go through all four years here and graduate,” Tanquilut said. “When people look back in 30 years at the pictures, maybe that will be us one day. That’s pretty cool. They can make fun of our bad hair.”
Tanquilut isn’t alone in that sentiment. Lincoln-Way West has 11 seniors on the varsity squad, but four swimmers — Tanquilut, Kailey Gallagher, Shannon Soukup and Tori Tiberi — have been on the varsity all four years of their high school careers.
To say the West quartet is close would be an understatement. This isn’t just a high school thing, The four swimmers, who dub themselves “the Original Four,” go back to club swimming in grammar school.
“I’m kind of in shock that it’s coming to an end,” Soukup said. “This is our family. This is my life. I’ve been swimming with these girls for so long. All of the sudden it’s over.”
Having finished fourth at last weekend’s SouthWest Suburban Red meet, Lincoln-Way West, in its fifth year as a varsity program, will compete at the Lockport Sectional on Nov. 16.
Helping in building the program from the ground up, the seniors are quite familiar with each other. Gallagher is the team’s mother hen, Tiberi the motivating cracker of the whip, Soukup is always positive and ready with a laugh, and Tanquilut is the leader and glue of the bunch.
Having the support of not only high school teammates, but longtime teammates and maybe more important, great friends, goes a long way in the grinding dog days of the season when the laps seem endless and the times refuse to drop.
“It’s hard to do double practices and balance school and a social life at the same time, so having girls going through the same thing with you, it makes it easy to relate to each other, get through the season easier,” Tiberi said.
The group is readying for their last shot at sectionals and state. The clock is ticking.
“At sectionals, we’re not looking for a specific place,” Gallagher said. “We’re looking to get our best times, and maybe get a relay to state.”
With only one shot to qualify, the pressure is on.
“It’s stressful because we don’t get a re-do after this,” Soukup said. “If you mess up, you don’t get that next chance next year.”
Win or lose, advance or not, the second group of West seniors have helped forge the program’s young identity.
“It was kind of challenging because we had to build the program from scratch,” Tiberi said. “The expectations, the rules, workouts, all changed when coach (Kristen) Neuberg came here. We had to build up, and we’ve worked so hard that we can compete with a lot of schools.”