This has been a glorious season thus far for the Waubonsie Valley boys swimming and diving team, but now it's crunch time.
The Warriors are one of the premier teams in this weekend's Neuqua Valley sectional, considered by many the toughest sectional in the state.
Besides the Warriors the sectional lineup includes top local teams such as the host Wildcats, Naperville North and Naperville Central.
The sectional results determine who makes the state cut in the 11 swimming events and diving. Everyone has been pointing to this weekend all season.
Waubonsie coach Nick Arens is hoping to qualify his relays and a bunch of individual swims at sectional in order to have a full team on the deck at the state meet, held next weekend at New Trier.
The Warriors are led by senior Adam Stacklin, who was seventh at state last year in the 100 freestyle despite suffering from a bad back throughout the season.
Stacklin, whom Arens believes is capable of qualifying for state in just about any stroke, will be swimming the 100-yard freestyle and the 200 free at sectionals and he's an important part of two relay teams.
"Adam is poised to do a great job in the upcoming weeks," Arens said. "He's confident about what he can do."
Michael McWhirter is another excellent senior, and he'll swim the 50 free and on all three relays, while senior Stephen Ernst will be looking to qualify in the 100 butterfly and the 100 breaststroke, and he'll probably be in both the 400 free and the 200 medley relays.
"Michael is an outstanding sprinter and a team leader," Arens said. "And Stephen has come a long way this year. He continuously pushes himself to do better."
Adam Trotter and Kelvin Newton are two more upperclassmen who are important to the Warriors' success. Trotter will swim the breaststroke and the 200 IM, while Newton will do a pair of individual freestyle races and will join the 200 free relay team that finished eighth at state and also includes Stacklin, McWhirter and junior Bailey York.
York and distance freestyler Nathan Morris represent the junior class. The coach is looking for York to do big things in the 100 freestyle .
"We need Bailey to excel in a variety of events if we're going to be the team we want to be," Arens said. "And Nathan just missed state last year, so we're looking forward to his swimming the 50 0 and the 200 free."
And finally there is a trio of freshmen who help make the Warriors a team to watch for years to come.
Michael Schwers will do the 500 freestyle and the 100 backstroke at sectionals, while classmate Taggart Lohman excels in the 100 fly and Kai Motoyama is strong in the 200 IM.
"We have good depth, but fortunately there was room for the three freshmen to get a great opportunity to show what they can do at sectionals," Arens said. "The experience will be beneficial for them."
The Warriors also have a pair of divers in senior Aleks Zdravev and junior Jackson Grom who are also candidates to make it to state.
"Some of the relay spots are still to be determined," Arens said. "We have a lot of speed and flexibility, but that's true of a lot of teams in our sectional. I'm optimistic that our boys will have good swims and show that their hard work has paid off."
Ready at Neuqua Valley:
Sectional host Neuqua Valley coach Chad Allen believes his team can qualify all three relays for state at Saturday's meet.
"At the beginning of the year, it just looked like we had potential," Allen said. "But we got better the back half of the season. The seniors have worked especially hard and now we're looking at a chance to qualify. We may even score in the free relays. It will be tough, but I'm more optimistic than I was last year."
Alan Cartwright, Brian Depuy, Alex Thoele and Will Russell are four seniors the coach believes can end their high school swimming days in triumph.
"Cartwright is really coming of age as a swimmer," Allen said. "He and Russell will be looking to qualify in the 50 free, Depuy is a strong candidate in the 100 free and Thoele in the backstroke."
The coach also expects to get big swims from junior Drew Dvorchak in the 100 butterfly, sophomore Joe Widuch in the backstroke and sophomore Ian Ivkovich, who will swim the breaststroke on the 200 free relay.
"We have very strong sophomore and freshmen classes," Allen said. "We're in good shape to make some noise in the coming years."
Growth at Glenbard:
The Glenbard co-op team made up of swimmers from Glenbard West and Glenbard South will participate as a team for the first time at the Lyons Twp. sectional.
"This year will be a learning experience for our kids," coach Chris Flamion said. "We're hoping to be competitive this year and then make our run in the next two years."
The co-op team grew in size from 11 to 22 this year with help from the addition of eight boys from Glenbard South.
Michal Junik, a senior from Glenbard South who competed as an independent last year, is one of the team captains and fastest swimmers.
Look for junior backstroker Ben Shaver, a Glenbard West junior to get close to the state cut this year and be a strong candidate to qualify next year.
Glenbard has no home pool for meets or training, so the boys from the two schools have to travel some distance to a facility in Oak Brook Terrace.
"Even with the pool and travel issues, the boys are having a lot of fun," Flamion said. "They're proud, as they should be, for overcoming the obstacles. They even have a little chip on their shoulders that makes them more competitive."