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updated: 2/25/2012 10:53 PM

February frenzy: Black and Co. pool their efforts

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  • Daniel Conway of Warren powers ahead in the 500-yard freestyle in the state swimming preliminaries at Evanston High School on Friday.

       Daniel Conway of Warren powers ahead in the 500-yard freestyle in the state swimming preliminaries at Evanston High School on Friday.
    Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Mundelein's Connor Black celebrates his top qualifying time in the 100-yard freestyle in the state swimming preliminaries at Evanston High School on Friday.

       Mundelein's Connor Black celebrates his top qualifying time in the 100-yard freestyle in the state swimming preliminaries at Evanston High School on Friday.
    Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Mundelein's Bryan Wiener rests after looking at his finals-qualifying time in the 100-yard backstroke in the state swimming preliminaries at Evanston High School on Friday.

       Mundelein's Bryan Wiener rests after looking at his finals-qualifying time in the 100-yard backstroke in the state swimming preliminaries at Evanston High School on Friday.
    Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Mundelein's Art Kasemets celebrates his effort in the 100-yard breaststroke in the state swimming preliminaries at Evanston High School on Friday.

       Mundelein's Art Kasemets celebrates his effort in the 100-yard breaststroke in the state swimming preliminaries at Evanston High School on Friday.
    Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

 
By Bill McLean
Daily Herald Correspondent

Mundelein junior Connor Black had just clocked a prelims-best 44.77 in the 100-yard freestyle at Friday's boys state swimming and diving meet at Evanston.

A swimmer from another school, standing poolside, looked at the time and shook his awed head.

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"This," he said, "is madness."

But it was still February.

Later, in the fourth heat of the 500 free, two boys sped to 4:19s.

"I'm so glad I stuck around for that heat," another impressed swimmer/spectator said.

The previous state record in the event: 4:21.04, set by Hinsdale Central's Danny Thomson at last year's state finals.

The Red Devil, now a senior, went 4:19.28 on Friday, just ahead of New Trier's Reed Malone (4:19.39).

Malone and three other Trevians later collaborated for an absurd 2:59.76 in the 400 free relay, burying the previous national record -- yep, national record -- of 3:01.8, established by Floridians in 1999.

"How is that possible?" a third amazed swimmer said moments after the Trevs' fleet feat.

The long and short of Friday's state prelims, in addition to Schimmelpfenning (first name Jared, a Peoria Notre Dame sophomore) and Fu (Justin, a Libertyville freshman)?

It was Daytona 500 rapid.

Warren senior Chad Church, it appeared, was driven from the get-go. The Blue Devil uncorked a prelims-best 25.9 breaststroke split in the 200 medley relay, highlighting the quartet's fifth-place 1:34.14 (with senior twins Danny and Sean Conway and junior Matthew Conway).

Church then qualified 10th in the 50 free (21.38) and topped all state qualifiers with a 57.1 in the 100 breaststroke -- exactly two seconds faster than his seed time.

"He's pumped today, highly motivated to finish the season really strong," Warren coach Chris Bertana said after the medley relay.

"Chad," he added, "knows what he's capable of doing, and he's going after it."

Rahul Sethna, Mundelein's coach, knew Black had a 44-second 100 free in him Friday morning.

Hours before the start of the prelims.

"I did a 50-free split at our pool this morning," Black recalled, "and I guess my coach liked the time. He said something about thinking I'd go 44."

Bingo.

The Mustang's 44.77 was 0.71 slower than the state record in the event.

Black also qualified second in the 50 free (20.58) and swam on the third-place 200 medley relay (1:33.79) and fourth-place 200 free relay (1:25.32).

He'll be busy today, as will his mates in both relays: sophomore Art Kasemets and seniors Bryan Wiener and Matt Marcotte.

"It's been a good day," Black said. "We've had some good moments ... memorable ones. But (Saturday), that's what counts, that's the day you want to remember more than Friday."

Wiener also advanced in the 100 backstroke (third, 50.12) and 50 free (12th, 21.46).

Seven Warren entrants will race today. In addition to that swift medley relay and Church's two individual events, Danny Conway qualified second in the 200 IM (1:49.7) and third in the 500 free (4:29); Matthew Conway made to the consolation heat of the 100 butterfly (seventh, 50.32); and the Conway brothers and junior Matthew Sweet combined for an 11th-place showing in the 400 free relay (3:10.41).

Friday's tough news, for Warren, was the disqualification of its 200 free relay.

The Blue Devils needed something, anything, to lift their spirits after the DQ.

A Church answered some prayers.

"What we got from Chad, after realizing we wouldn't be able to score any points in the 200 free relay, was big, so big," Bertana said. "Did we reach all of what we wanted to reach today? No. But we can still do well, still achieve a lot (Saturday)."

Langston Fitts' Friday was, well, fit to be tied. The Stevenson senior tied Riverside-Brookfield's Sean DeMuro for sixth place in the 50 free (21.27) and tied Illinois Math and Science Academy's Steven Tan for fourth place in the 100 free (46.4).

The Patriot and DeMuro had to stick around for a swim-off for sixth place and a spot in today's championship heat in the 50 free.

"I told him, right after his first 50, 'We're re not done yet,' " Stevenson coach Greg Hartman said.

Fitts won the swim-off, staged after the 400 free relay. That made him a two-time championship-heat qualifier this weekend. (Fitts and Tan did not have to break their stalemate in the 100 free; both will motor for top-six medals today).

Fitts joined classmates Daniel Shtivelberg, Ryota Kuwahara and Chris Hodges for an 11th-place effort in the 200 free relay (1:26.94).

Stevenson junior James Lichtenstein emerged as one of only two Lake County divers to survive prelims Friday morning. Lichtenstein sits sixth (286.95) after eight dives, and Lake Forest junior Andrew Marsh is 12th (262.6).

Vernon Hills junior diver Alex Zuniga missed a finals berth by exactly one point.

Two was Alex Snarski's favorite number Friday. The Libertyville sophomore extended his season in a pair of events (100 butterfly, 100 back.). He went 50.89 in the 100 fly (12th) and 52.37 in the 100 back (10th).

"Alex," said Wildcats coach Kevin Zakrzewski, "struggled here last year (21st place in the back, 53.56). But he's been strong all year, and he's bigger and faster.

"I'm extremely happy."

So was junior Kyle Aerne, Lakes' lone Eagle at state. He qualified fifth in the 100 breast (57.95), significantly better than his seed time of 59.08.

"I felt good, really good, this morning while warming up," Aerne said. "It felt like I was gliding through the water.

"And I was relaxed."

The state consolation (seventh through 12th place) and championship (first through sixth) finals session starts at 1 p.m. today.

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