Last year Waubonsie Valley's Adam Stacklin swam the entire high school season with an injured back and still finished seventh at state in the 100 freestyle.
This year Stacklin, a senior, is healthy, swimming at 100 percent effectiveness and he's leading the Warriors in what could be a very good season.
On Saturday Stacklin anchored three winning relays, coming from behind in two to lead Waubonsie to the championship of the West Chicago Wildcat Relays. It was the first time the Warriors have won that meet since 2004.
Waubonsie won five events to finish with 163 points, edging Neuqua Valley, which had 154. Lockport, last year's champion, was third with 135, and IMSA, which won three events, was fourth with 118.
"I feel great this year," Stacklin said. "I can push myself in the weight room and in the pool. I feel smooth and my strokes are great."
"Adam is a star," said Waubonsie Valley coach Nick Arens. "His being healthy is a big help. Especially the intensity he brings to the pool. Today he chased down the leader in the 500 free relay and he overtook two guys for the win in the 400 free relay at the end."
Stacklin was determined to win both races.
"I knew I wasn't going to lose that 500," Stacklin said. "I tried my best and beat him on the back 50. In the last race I knew exactly what we had to do to win the meet."
As good as he was, Stacklin was just part of the Warriors' great day, as a dozen swimmers contributed to the five winning relays.
"Everyone stepped up and we won it," Stacklin said. "Our relays are looking strong. We have a lot of speed and there's tough competition for spots."
"Adam's a game-changer," Arens said. "He puts us in a lot better spot. But there's a dramatic improvement in our depth. This win is a steppingstone, but we have a long way to go and we have to keep heading in the right direction more aggressively."
Neuqua Valley registered wins in both the 200 backstroke and the freshman-sophomore 200 freestyle relay. (The two frosh-soph races counted in the final team standings.)
Sophomore Joe Widuch was a member of both Neuqua winning relay teams.
"Joe is a nice sprinter," said Neuqua Valley coach Chad Allen. "He was our swimmer of the meet today. He works hard in practice and he's become a team leader."
IMSA won all three relays that returning medley relay state qualifiers Steven Tan, Andrew Liang and Nate Suek swam together, the 200 and the 400 medley relays and the 200 butterfly. Johnny Wu joined them in all three races.
"We put them together for all three races we thought they could win," said IMSA coach Kevin Satler. "They're all better than they were last year. We think Tan and Liang can score at state."