Jessee, Han setting the standard at Hoffman Estates
The boys swimming record boards at area pools are, as a general rule, most heavily populated by the performances of seniors.
A notable exception is at Hoffman Estates, where Nick Jessee and Sang W. Han had the gall to practically rewrite their program's all-time marks as juniors.
Yes, both Jessee and Han are seniors this year — the kind who have already made their mark.
They are also the kind who aren't yet satisfied.
"Those two are absolutely the hardest-working guys we have," said first-year Hawks boys swimming coach Joe Arce, a veteran of the club coaching scene. "It's so important for a team like ours to have leaders like them."
As co-captains, Jessee and Han set the tone in practices and regularly demonstrate that it's not only effort, but consistency and intensity of effort, that leads to improvement.
Jessee's best race is the 200-yard freestyle, with a team record of 1:43.11 in the 200 free in a winning sectional performance last season. But he's also strong in the 100 free with a team record of 47.21, the 200 IM with a team record of 2:04.66, and his backstroke times in the early going this season have also been terrific.
Han's best race is the 100 breaststroke. He got under the one-minute barrier last year — barely — with a team record of 59.96 at the Stevenson sectional, but is already nearing that level this season amidst hard workouts.
Jesse and Han had legs on Hoffman Estates' team-record 200 and 400 freestyle relays of last season, both of which return three-fourths of the participants.
Both have goals far beyond the team variety in mind for their final high school season.
Jessee, who has a background with the Palatine Park District program, should be considered among the state's best in the 200 free, where a 1:41 clocking puts him among the group that would likely score points in the state finals, to be held in February at New Trier.
"In the 200, I'm looking at getting under 1:40," Jessee said. "I'm hoping, best case, maybe 1:38 something or even 1:37. And definitely, scoring some points."
If Han achieves his goals in the 100 breaststroke, he'll also be swimming on the last day of the season.
"I really think by the end I can be going 56, maybe even 55," he said.
Another person at Hoffman Estates happy to have the talented senior duo around is boys water polo coach Chris Fetterman. He's assisting Arce with swimming, and already looking forward to the spring, when both Jessee and Han will transfer their aquatic aptitude to a team sport.
Both are excellent players, but Han in particular thrives on the physical nature of the game. He excelled as a scorer for a Hawks program that finished 18-9 and earned first-team all-sectional honors.
"With polo, you almost have to enjoy getting out of the pool after a game and having a feeling that you've really put yourself through something," said Fetterman, who said Han projects a potential all-stater. "Sang is like that — he really likes that part of it."
Josh Schumacher, who coached the Hoffman Estates boys swimming program for 10 years before stepping away this season, was on hand as a spectator Tuesday to watch as Jessee, Han and the Hawks had a dual meet with Cary-Grove.
Asked what kind of people Jessee and Han were, he said, "Just great kids. Hard-working, hungry. They really want to be good — no, great."
One change Arce has instituted this winter is more dryland training. Both Jessee and Han have lanky frames capable of adding a little bit more power-generating muscle, so weight workouts have taken on an increased importance.
Both Hoffman Estates seniors are looking forward to the opportunity to compete at the collegiate level. But whatever happens with that, they'll certainly have raised the bar at Hoffman Estates.
"You really couldn't ask for a better pair of leaders," Arce said. "We have good numbers in the program, a pretty big varsity team with 20 swimmers. We have a strong sophomore class, making vast improvement. The kind of example that's being set by our co-captains is really key."
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