Even if Waubonsie Valley's thrilling win in the 400-yard freestyle relay wasn't enough to overtake St. Charles North for the Upstate Eight team title, the Warriors did manage to cap off the conference meet in style and send themselves off to sectionals with a big boost of confidence.
The Warriors' quartet of Michael McWhirter, Stephen Ernst, Nathan Morris and Michael Schwers just did touch out the Stars' Spencer Gray, Joey Quan, Ben Sherman and Kyle Gannon, 3:16.59 to 3:16.77, to close out Saturday's meet at St. Charles East.
Waubonsie Valley also claimed the 200 free relay crown when McWhirter, Ernst, Kelvin Newton and Schwers turned in a time of 1:28.60 to hold off runner-up Metea Valley's time of 1:29.43. Even so, the North Stars piled up 279 points to claim a third straight UEC title with the Warriors second at 235.
"We made a big push for it, but unfortunately we didn't beat them," said McWhirter, who added a victory in the 50 free and a sixth-place showing in the 100 free to his two relay titles. "I'm really impressed we beat them in both of those relays. That's looking good for us going into sectionals."
Waubonsie Valley picked up 13 points in the 200 free when Adam Stacklin finished second to Gannon, who recorded a 1:42.24 for St. Charles North. Stacklin also finished a close second in the 100 butterfly in 52.04 while the Stars' Nick Kowaleski won in 52.03.
Waubonsie Valley coach Nick Arens also picked up strong results with a trio of fourth-place showings from diver Aleksandar Zdravev, Bailey York (100 back) and Ernst (100 breast). The efforts were not enough to unseat the North Stars, but Arens is ready to compete at the loaded Neuqua Valley sectional.
"We saw a lot of good things and we just can't wait until we get that chance to completely show what we're made of at sectionals," he said.
St. Charles North, meanwhile, had great performances from several swimmers, especially Gray and Gannon.
Gray won the 500 free with his best in-season time of 4:42.35 to fend off runner-up Will Hanel of St. Charles East and also took second in the 200 IM and fourth in the 200 free to go with the runner-up showing in the meet's closing relay.
"Coach scored the meet and had us taking third," Gray said, "so coming in in third and going out in first is pretty good."
Gannon, too, was pretty good for St. Charles North. Along with his win in the 200 free, the North Stars claimed the 100 free and helped his team win the 200 medley relay.
Metea Valley (207) edged Neuqua Valley (202) for third place in the team standings while the host Saints took fifth at 177 and Lake Park was sixth at 140.
The Mustangs were paced by Matt Salerno, who won the 200 IM and the 100 breast and also helped Metea to second in the 200 free relay. Peter Rodriguez and Connor Cast finished first and third, respectively in diving, and freshman Kevin Kluge recorded a sub-five-minute time while taking fifth in the 500 for the Mustangs.
"We're so young," Metea Valley coach Mark Jager said. "We're starting to claw our way up there, but we're in a really tough conference with great talent. The St. Charles schools, Waubonsie and Neuqua are always tough."
Neuqua Valley's Joe Widuch won the 100 back in 55.38 while teammate Alex Thoele was third. Lake Park's best showing came in the 100 free where Sean Gregor was second with a clocking of 48.30.