Local legends compete in Rio Olympics


To drive to all the high schools of local USA athletes, it would be a trip of 7 hours and 23 minutes and would cover 237 miles.

By Paul Evers, sports editor
The Rio Olympics were a thrill, giving great performances from the likes of Michael Phelps, Katie Ledecky and Simone Biles. It also included domination by the U.S. Women’s Gymnastics team and both U.S. Basketball teams.
Some of the athletes on the U.S. Olympic team hail from the nearby area. Here’s a look at the athletes who went to high schools around Prospect.
Tamika Catchings (USA Women’s Basketball)- While Catchings did not graduate from a local high school, she did start her high school career at Stevenson. Catchings and the U.S. Women’s Basketball team took gold in dominating fashion in Rio, winning the gold medal by 29 points over Spain.
Kent Farrington (USA Equestrian)- Farrington graduated from the Latin School of Chicago in 1999. Farrington grew up riding carriage horses in the city before deciding to become a professional show jumper. Farrington played a huge role in the U.S.’s silver medal in team show jumping and placed 5th in the individual competition.
Lauren Kieffer (USA Equestrian)- Kieffer graduated from Mount Carmel in 2005. Kieffer failed to complete the cross-country course, which eliminated Team USA from medal contention.
Kiana Eide, Natalie McGiffert, Monica Rokhman, Kristen Shaldybin and Laura Zeng (USA Rhythmic Gymnastics)- The USA Rhythmic Gymnastics team is based out of the North Shore Rhythmic Gymnastics Center, so the team has many members from local high schools. McGiffert and Rokhman graduated from Glenbrook North in 2015, Eide is a senior at Glenbrook North, Shaldybin graduated from Highland Park in 2016, and Zeng is a junior at Libertyville.
Zeng placed 11th individually, which is the highest ever finish for an individual USA Rhythmic Gymnast. The USA has never before qualified for team rhythmic gymnastics in the Olympics, only participating in the 1996 Olympics by virtue of being the host country.
The team ended up coming in last out of 14 nations.
Annie Haeger (USA Sailing)- Haeger was born in Chicago and graduated from Lake Forest High School in 2008. Haeger competed in the 470 class of sailing and placed 7th overall but was in medal contention through the final race.
Kevin Cordes (USA Swimmer)- Cordes is a Naperville native and graduated from Neuqua Valley in 2011. Cordes competed in the 200m breaststroke and the 4x100m medley relay in Rio, swimming the breaststroke part of the relay.
Cordes made it to the finals for the 200m breaststroke but did not medal. Cordes earned a gold medal in the 4x100m medley, the race that was supposedly Michael Phelps’ last.
Conor Dwyer (USA Swimmer)- Dwyer graduated from Loyola Academy in 2006. Dwyer swam in the 200m freestyle and the 4x200m freestyle relay.
Dwyer collected Bronze in the 200m freestyle and earned gold in the 4x200m freestyle relay, swimming the first leg for the USA. Before the race Michael Phelps’ swim cap ripped, so once Dwyer finished his leg of the relay, Phelps borrowed Dwyer’s cap for the anchor leg of the relay.  
Olivia Smoliga (USA Swimmer)- Smoliga graduated from Glenbrook South in 2012. Smoliga set the third fastest time for the 100m backstroke in U.S. History at the Olympic trials.
In Rio Smoliga competed in the 100m backstroke and the 4x100m medley relay. While Smoliga placed 6th overall in the 100m backstroke, she was able to obtain a gold medal in the 4x100m medley.
Evan Jager (USA Track)- Jager graduated from Jacobs in 2007. He competed in the 3000m steeplechase, earning silver. By finishing second, Jager became the highest finisher for the U.S. in the event since 1952.
Zach Ziemek (USA Field)- Ziemek graduated from Lake Park in 2012. Ziemek competed in the decathlon and placed 7th in his olympic debut. He is expected to compete again in the 2020 summer olympics in Tokyo.
Ben Kanute (USA Triathlon)- Kanute graduated from Marmion Academy this past spring. He placed 29th in Rio for the triathlon.
Thomas Jaeschke (USA Men’s Volleyball)- Jaeschke graduated from Wheaton Warrenville South in 2012. He earned bronze alongside his U.S. Men’s Volleyball teammates.
Kelly Murphy and Kelsey Robinson (USA Women’s Volleyball)- Murphy graduated from Joliet Catholic in 2007 and Robinson graduated from St. Francis in 2010. The two played on the bronze-medal winning U.S. Women’s Volleyball team in Rio.
Haley Augello (USA Women’s Wrestling)- Augello graduated from Lockport in 2013. She upset the reigning bronze medalist, Jessica Blaszka, in the opening round before falling to eventual finalist Eri Tosaka.
Augello was still in medal contention until she lost in controversial fashion.