Sam Hiller of Naperville North just had to stop by the Wheaton co-op 400 freestyle relay team members and thank them for the assist they gave the Huskies in winning Saturday's DuPage Valley Conference boys swimming and diving title.
The Huskies narrowly defeated archrival Naperville Central 305-303 for their second straight DVC title, and they couldn't have done it without Wheaton, which edged Naperville Central for second place in the final event, the 400 freestyle, to provide Naperville North its final margin of victory.
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"When we were on the blocks after the meet, I had to tell the Wheaton guys that we appreciated how well they did in that last race," Hiller said.
According to scorers the two Napervilles would have finished in a tie for first if the Redhawks had finished second in that race.
"The Napervilles are always on top of the DVC," said J.T. Simoneau, a member of the Wheaton relay team who also won the 100 freestyle. "It's always good to beat either one of them at anything. It was exciting to finish second ahead of Naperville Central."
Wheaton co-op was third in the team standings with 245 points
The Huskies were led by seniors Hiller and Eric Curia, both members of both winning free relays. Curia won the 500 freestyle and Hiller won the 100 backstroke and edged Curia in the 200 freestyle individual race.
Curia said the conference win puts the Huskies in a strong position with sectionals and state coming up.
"We're near our state cuts and we're not even close to being tapered," Curia said. "We're ready to show the state what we're made of. We're shooting for a top-10 finish."
Other Huskies leaders were Kevin Kielma, who won the 100 fly, Steven Missak who swam on both winning free relays, John Moosemiller, who was on the 200 free relay and finished second in the 100 breaststroke, and Andrew Rocco, a member of the 400 free relay team.
Naperville Central was led by Connor Lamb who won both the 200 IM and the 100 breaststroke, and combined with Lucas Harder, David Johnson and Matt Vanderkolk to take the title in the 200 medley relay and divers Peter Rusenas and Joe Gucwa, who finished 1-2.
West Chicago, which finished fourth in the team standings with 147 points, had its first DVC boys swimming champion in 12 years as senior Jack Eicheneberger won the 50 freestyle with a time of 22.61, touching ahead of Naperville Central's Christian May, who swam a 22.62.
"It feels great to win a conference championship," Eichenberger said. "I've worked very hard to try to make it to state this year. This will build my confidence for sectionals."
"Jack got very close last year," said West Chicago coach Nicole Cleveland. "But he's working hard and he's determined to get over the disappointment. Today he was a little slower than he's been, but he's been right near the state cut."
Cleveland knew that Eichenberger meant business this year when he came into the first practice with an added 15 pounds of muscle and swimming faster, thanks to his off-season dedication.
"Today's race reassured him," Cleveland said. "We're going into the Upstate Eight next year and it feels good to walk away with a DVC champion. Jack has made our team and our school proud."