Not again this year.
That was what the members of the Wheaton co-op 400-yard freestyle relay team thought entering Saturday's swimming sectional at Lyons Township. After just missing the state cut at last year's meet, the swimmers were determined to qualify this time around and qualify in style. The Wheaton quartet of J.T. Simoneau, Max St. George, Matt Rogers and James Hasbrouck did just that, blazing to a first-place time of 3:11.28 that is more than 3.5 seconds under the qualifying standard.
It was one of many fast races for the Wheaton team that tallied 208 points while placing second only to Hinsdale Central, which captured its second straight sectional crown with 270 points. The host Lions were third (205) and Lake Park was a solid fourth at 141.
"We've been training real hard the last two weeks and we knew we were right there and that we had a great shot," said Rogers, who will make his first state meet appearance next week. "We were super pumped up and it felt awesome for everyone."
With Simoneau getting off to a fast start, Wheaton led most of the way and held off charges from Lyons and Hinsdale Central. In all, five relay squads advanced to state in the meet's final race as the Addison Trail-Willowbrook and Hinsdale South made the cut.
Simoneau also took first in the 100 free, followed by fellow state qualifiers Will Leach of Hinsdale Central, Sean Gregor of Lake Park and teammate Hasbrouck, who will like Simoneau will compete at state in three events.
"We just wanted to win," said Simoneau, a junior who also moves on to the state in the 200 free. "We went out fast and didn't let anyone catch up. I'm real excited for next week. It should be awesome."
In all, Wheaton advanced in seven events, including both Rogers and St. George in the 100 back. In the 200 IM, Nick Zito of Addison Trail-Willowbrook was first in 1:55.45, Red Devil Dan Ciciora was second in 1:48.08 and St. George had a very impressive time drop but came up oh-so-short when his 1:58.52 time was 1/100th of a second off the cut. Tommy Reminger was third in the 500 with a state-qualifying time of 4:44.61 and also was part of Wheaton's 200 IM that advanced.
Wheaton Academy will be represented next week by Brendan Howley, who took first in the 100 breaststroke. One of six swimmers from the school, Howley turned in an impressive time, especially considering he won't taper until he swims with his club team at the Junior Nationals.
Zito, along with Eddie Mapel of Hinsdale Central and Jacob Vance and Ben Fisher of Lake Park, is among seven swimmers to qualify for state from the 100 breaststroke.
"It was an awesome time and it felt great," Howley said. "I'm not used to high school (meets) and club meets are very different but this shows that I can come out and perform."
Lake Park had a number of nice performances, and so did the Addison Trail-Willowbrook squad. For the Lancers, Sean Gregor, Fisher, Vance and Kevin Siciak took third in the 200 IM while advancing to state, and Gregor also took second in the 200 free to move on.
One of the highlights for Addison Trail-Willowbrook came when Max Railing, RJ Aldridge, Jason Sechan and Zito raced to a school-record 3:14.40 to make the state cut in the 400 free relay.
"We dropped over 10 seconds in the 400 free and that was huge," Addison Trail-Willowbrook coach Kirk Ziemke said. "It was a massive drop and the guys are so excited to extend their season."
St. Francis' Michael Barrowclift made the state cut in the 50 free, while Downers Grove South's Ryan Kujawa took first in diving.