Jessica Kurpeikis headed into the state swim meet with confidence.
The 12-year-old Beverly resident had put in the time, swam countless laps in practice and was ready to put all her hard work to the test.
But, 7 first-place medals? Even Kurpeikis was a little surprised.
Winning 5 individual gold medals and 2 swimming with relays, Kurpeikis was a standout star for the Chicago Wolfpack Aquatic Club (CWAC) at the 2019 Illinois Swimming Age Group state meet March 7-10 at Lake Central High School in St. John, Ind.
“Some of the times were a surprise, but I went in really confident,” Kurpeikis said. “I blew it out. I wanted to go crazy and do the best I could, especially because most of my events are sprints. You’ve just got to go.”
Helping CWAC to the overall team state title, Kurpeikis was one of six St. Barnabas students contributing to the championship, including Julieta, Charlie and Colleen Tracy, Maggie Kurpeikis and Aidan Gnatt.
With an abundance of swimmers and relay teams across the age-group races, CWAC dominated the meet, finishing with 3,636.33 points to beat the Academy Bullets Swim Club (2,278.5).
The meet featured swimmers from 82 clubs.
Competing in the 11-12 age group, Jessica Kurpeikis won first-place medals in the 50, 100 and 200-yard freestyle, the 50-yard butterfly, the 50-yard backstroke, and the 400 free and 400 medley relays.
She also finished fourth in the 100-yard butterfly.
“It was probably one of my best meets,” Jessica said. “When I’m in the water, I just love it. I love that challenge. It feels really good to win a race or get your best time.”
As she makes the jump to the 13-14 age group next year, Kurpeikis continues to improve, putting her early struggles in the past.
“I was never very good at swimming until I was about 10,” Jessica said. “Swimming 10-under two years ago, I wasn’t ranked very high or anything, and I just dove in. I won the 50 free and knew I could be pretty good.”
Maggie Kurpeikis also piled up points for CWAC with top-20 finishes in the 10-and-under 200 medley relay (9th), 200 free relay (13th), 50 free (17th) and 200 free (20th).
Maggie, 10, is a fourth-grader at St. Barnabas.
“We knew we could do well. We had done really well last year,” Maggie said. “It went pretty well. I was seeded high up; but I dropped time, so it was a pretty good meet for me. It was really exciting when they announced we had won.”
For the Tracy Family, swimming has become a family affair with 14-year-old Julieta, 12-year-old Charlie and 10-year-old Colleen all achieving top finishes.
According to the Tracy siblings, their competitive nature isn’t limited to the pool.
“We’re super-competitive,” said Colleen, a fifth-grader. “We fight over food, who sits where on the plane, who gets the top bunk. We challenge each other for everything. Our parents are super-competitive, and so are we.”
Julieta swam on the 13-14 400 and 800 championship relays and also claimed top-20 finishes in the 200 fly (2nd), 200 free (3rd), 100 free (5th), 400 medley relay (5th), 500 free (8th), 100 fly (11th) and 50 free (12th).
A St. Barnabas seventh-grader, Charlie won medals in the 11-12 age group, including third in the 200 back, fifth in the 1,000 free and 200 fly, sixth in the 500 free, eighth in the 400 medley relay, 100 backstroke and 200 IM, and 15th in the 200 free.
“I was most proud of my 200 back in third,” Charlie said. “I dropped 9 seconds and wasn’t expecting it. The 200 fly, I learned I should practice more because I did really well. I knew I could do well. I didn’t think I’d get this many medals.”
As for the sibling rivalry, it’s helping make all the Tracys better.
“Since I was young and Julieta started winning medals, I looked up to her to try and be as good as her,” Charlie said. “Colleen started swimming and looked up to us, trying to be as good as us.”
Colleen swam on the 10-and-under group 200 medley and 200 free relay first-place teams along with strong showings in the 500 free (3rd), 100 free (4th), 200 IM and 200 free (5th) and 100 IM (17th).
Colleen favors the distance races, but she’s up for any race.
“I’ve never been top-10 before, so it was kind of a surprise,” Colleen said. “I know I’m getting better. I like the distance races because you can focus on your speed, challenge yourself and pace yourself.”
Gnatt, a 10-year-old St. Barnabas fourth-grader, helped CWAC’s 10-and-under 200 free relay team to a 12th-place finish.
Embracing the excitement of the state meet, Aidan just jumped in and raced.
“The relay, we’ve been swimming together for a long time. That’s what makes us a good relay,” Aidan said. “You’re nervous because you’re racing against good people, but it’s exciting. If you get that time, you’re happy. You did it at state.”
Also swimming for CWAC, St. Ignatius freshman Madison Szymanski (Mt. Greenwood) competed on the championship 800 free relay with Julieta Tracy and also posted top-20 finishes in the 1,650 free (7th), 200 free, 200 IM and 100 free (9th), 400 IM (10th) and 1,000 free (14th).