Strauss, Ujiye set winning tone for Barrington
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For a Barrington team with an opportunity to score a nice chunk of points in this weekend's boys swimming and diving state championships at New Trier, it's fitting that the effort is being led by the team's top two seniors.
Team co-captains Jack Strauss and Kyle Ujiye are poised to score points in their individual races, but the thrust all season for the Broncos has been how to score points collectively.
And that's where Strauss and Ujiye figure so prominently.
Ujiye will compete in the 100-yard butterfly, where he's got a great chance at a top-six finish after winning last week's sectional meet in a team and pool record 49.96. But for the rest of his state meet lineup, he'll be the ultimate team player. Ujiye is on the medley relay with juniors Brandon Baranowski, Sam Miseyka and Sebastian Piekarski, and he'll have legs on both freestyle relays.
Strauss has excelled in the 100 and 200 freestyles and hopes to score points in those races. But he's also the anchor to both the 200 and 400 freestyle relays.
All of the relays have great opportunities to score points, which is key in determining the final placement in the team race this weekend.
That relay strength is by design, as coach John Valentine realized early this season that Barrington had the kind of quality and depth it takes to score points in relays at state. And the Broncos have had great development from their younger classes, as individual state qualifiers such as Baranowski and Miseyka have stepped forward, especially in the second half of the year.
Having everyone contribute is key to any team's state success, and Strauss says a cumulative team belief is one key to Barrington's success.
"For us, I think the key moment was at the New Trier relays," said Strauss. "We came back to beat New Trier in the 200 free relay, and it just really gave us confidence. You beat a team like New Trier, and you know you belong in the discussion about who the best teams are."
Strauss performed well in last year's state meet, finishing ninth in the 100 free. There's every reason to believe he'll be able to deliver best times and a higher placement this season, as he equalled his top 100 free clocking at the sectional last weekend without being fully rested.
Ujiye has the fifth-fastest qualifying time in the 100 fly and has been among the state's fastest in the event all season. He and the rest of the team seem to gain confidence from having seen Strauss perform well on the state biggest stage already.
"Jack is like the ultimate teammate," said Ujiye. "The thing about him is that he's probably our hardest worker in practices, so you see someone like him having success and you understand how it gets done. He's all about our team and trying to help everyone achieve what we want to achieve."
Strauss' future in swimming is settled, as he'll attend Miami (Ohio) next fall. Ujiye was saying earlier this year that he might stop swimming after high school. But his continued time drops, and perhaps a little more energy accompanying his end-of-season taper, might have him changing that tune.
"I think I might have just been tired when I was saying that," he said with a smile after the Broncos had won the sectional meet in their home pool. "I'm still giving it some thought."
The Barrington 200 free relay at state features Piekarski, Miseyka, Ujiye and Strauss, while the 400 has Piekarski, Ujiye, senior Chris Vega and Strauss.
The Broncos may have suffered an individual disappointment or two at the sectional meet, but if the other side of that coin is a top effort at state, everyone at Barrington will come away pleased.
"This year, our whole focus has been the state meet," Strauss said. "For us, everything else is really secondary to that. We think it can be a really special finish for this team."
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