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Dekalb Chronicle Article about DeKalb/Sycamore HS Sectional meet

Waller inspires, Jepsen qualifies for state

By ERIC VAN DRIL - sports@daily-chronicle.com

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ST. CHARLES – During Saturday’s St. Charles East regional, the DeKalb-Sycamore co-op swim team accomplished two major goals they set at the beginning of the season.

Senior Casey Jepsen qualified for next week’s state meet and junior Grace Waller returned to competitive swimming to help lift the team to 95.50 points and a 4th-place finish

“It was an awesome meet,” DeKalb-Sycamore head coach Leah Eames said.  “Casey Jepsen had a really strong swim and is going to state for us.

Throughout the year Jensen has continued to shave time off her 200-yd freestyle personal best and, in the team’s biggest meet this season, she set a new personal best.

“Casey has dropped six seconds this year,” Eames said.  “Her goal was to make state and she made it by four seconds and ended up tying for second.  Grace (Waller) just started the meet out strong and after that every single swimmer had lifetime bests.”

A year ago, Waller seemed to be a shoe-in to challenge for the 200-yard freestyle title at the St. Charles East sectional.  But the Wednesday after placing in the 2008 state meet, doctors found a cancerous tumor in her right femur.

Waller had months of chemotherapy to shrink the tumor before surgery that removed her kneecap and six inches of bone out of her leg.  Waller finished 25th at the St. Charles East sectional just two weeks after quitting chemotherapy. 

"It’s just exciting to see how far she’s come in just a couple weeks,” Eames said.  “She’s making huge improvements in so many places on a daily basis.  I mean, I’m purposely making workouts in practice where I know she’ll fail, just because I’m curious where her limits are.  And every single one I’ve wrote for her to fail, she’s actually made. 

“This was her first meet where she had higher goals,” Eames said. “She’s getting better and better every week and I have no doubt in my mind she’ll be back here next year.”