BY CHAD DARE
Kristin Verkler’s summer vacation consisted of swimming.
No, not the kind of swimming at the lake that most high school seniors enjoy every year.
Verkler went through two-a-day practices in Champaign getting ready for her final shot at the IHSA State Meet.
“I swam for the Heat team in Champaign this summer,’’ Verkler said. “We were up every morning, practices were at 6 a.m. at least four days a week and sometimes five.’’
Verkler worked out with Champaign Central coach Will Barker and the extra time paid off in last week’s sectional meet as she qualified for state in the 200-yard individual medley and the 100-yard butterfly.
Additionally, Verkler set new school records in both events, taking six seconds off her best 200 IM time with a clocking of 2 minutes, 9.05 seconds and her time of 57.04 seconds in the 100 butterfly is among the best in the state.
“My goal coming into the year was to be in the top 12 at state,’’ said Verkler, noting that the top 12 earn all-state honors. “Being seeded eighth in the 100 butterfly has really put things into perspective for me. I put in more time than I ever had and that has already paid off.
“I already dropped decent amount of time in both races. And now, I just want to see if I can better those times. I’m hoping it pays off at the next level.’’
Verkler, who signed with Illinois State on Wednesday, knows that very little separates the top swimmers in the state.
“I just have to go out there and do what I do,’’ she said. “Just need to mentally stay relax and not getting overly excited.
“I’ve already made a big mark at Sectionals and I just want to improve on that. I’ve got a shot to do well.’’
And considering what she went through this summer, Verkler is pleased with how her senior year has gone in the pool.
“At first, it was really tough because everything — all my clothes and stuff — was here in Danville,’’ said Verkler, who stayed with her grandparents in Champaign. “I had friends who wanted to hang out, but I couldn’t because of practice or working.’’
Besides swimming in Champaign during the week, Verkler spent the majority of her weekends working as a lifeguard at Turtle Run.
“By the time I was done with work, I was going back to practice,’’ she said. “This is my last year, last chance. I want to leave behind something for future swimmers. I want to set the bar higher.
“(Former Danville standout) Lauren (Drennan) set the bar before me and I want to set it for the next group.’’
Drennan is the only state placewinner in Danville history as she was 11th in the 100 butterfly at the 2009 state meet.
Verkler admits the 100 butterfly is her specialty.
“All of my strokes are decent, but the 100 butterfly is my big race,’’ she said.
The preliminaries for the state meet will start at 3:30 p.m. today in Evanston, with the finals set for 1 p.m. on Saturday.