Black attack: Two state records fall for Mundelein senior
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It wasn't like Mundelein senior Connor Black wasn't going to look at the scoreboard after his 50 freestyle.
He chose to wait for the crowd reaction, and it was a favorable one.
Only one previous time in the 82-year history of the boys swimming and diving state championships has a competitor dipped below the 20-second mark in the 50 freestyle.
That was Matt Grevers, in the same New Trier pool graced by the Stanford-bound Black on Friday.
Now there are two in the sub-20 club, and Black is the faster of them.
"When I touched the wall it was almost like there was a second or two that went by," Black said. "Then I heard the crowd and I knew I could turn around and look then."
The clock read 19.80 -- faster than any swimmer in Illinois history, and just a blink of an eye off the national record of 19.43. Black is the top seed heading into today's finals and has a chance to become the Mustangs first individual title winner since Justin Mathias won the same event in 1999.
"We knew he had a shot to do this," Mundelein coach Rahul Sethna said of Black. "All season he has been solid and this week he really focused in and was ready to go."
That was just one race for Black. The 100 butterfly proved to be an even bigger challenge with two-time defending state champion Andrew Jovanovic of Loyola lined up next to him.
"That (record) I knew was going down," Black said.
As sure as Black was, the race still came down to the final last few yards with Black edging out Jovanovic in another state record of 47.20. Jovanovic also went under the previous mark, finishing in 47.81.
"That race was twice as long -- I was pretty tired after," Black said after the fly. "I knew with (Jovanovic) next to me it would be a tough race."
Black will be joined in the finals by teammate Ayrton Kasemets. He dropped again from his seed time in the 100 breastroke to finish 12th overall in 58.33.
The effort from Black was just a small slice of a lightning-fast day at New Trier. To go with the two records Black set, Reed Malone of New Trier and Jovanovic also took down state marks.
Plenty of school records were rewritten by Warren's Matt Conway. He started the day with an effort in the 200 freestyle that even surprised the North Carolina-bound senior. His time of 1:38.87 took down the program record set by his brother Dan and set up Conway as the No. 2 seed in the finals, behind the USC-bound Malone who shattered the previous state mark by finishing in 1:35.60.
"That 200 definitely set the pace for today," Conway said. "That 38 definitely came from nowhere."
Conway also took down his own school mark in the 100 butterfly, delivering the third fastest time of the day (49.23).
But he wasn't done there. To finish up, Conway led off the Blue Devils' 400 freestyle relay team that also included Austin Salisbury, Garrett Zenner and Ashwin Sanzgiri with a record split of 47.07 to help Warren to an 11th-place finish and a spot in the consolation finals.
"We kind of faltered last week," said Warren coach Chris Bertana. "I think we showed today what we are capable of across the board."
Libertyville still has high hopes after Friday's prelims. Sophomore Matt Harrington and senior Alex Snarski led the way as the Wildcats are in good position for a high team finish today.
Snarski, Harrington, Atticus Rush and Justin Fu shattered the school record with a third-place swim in the 200 medley relay. The same group later teamed up to get the 400 freestyle relay into the finals with a 3:09.14 clocking.
In between, Snarski and Harrington each earned a pair of spots in the finals. Snarski put together his best swim of the season in the butterfly swimming a personal best 49.57. He followed that up with a personal best 49.70 to be seeded second in the 100 backstroke.
"I was so pumped up all week for today," Snarski said. "As a team we have had a great season and I was so ready to race today."
Harrington swam his best 50 freestyle time in a fourth place prelim effort then capped that off with a quick 49.59 in the butterfly to join Snarski in the finals.
North Suburban Conference co-champion Stevenson and its super sophomores made their impact during Friday's prelims. Nick Koto qualified for the consolation finals in the 500 freestyle with a personal best 4:37.02, and Allen Feng rode the momentum from the great swim from Koto to finish 11th in the backstroke in a personal-best 51.09.
Stevenson also earned a pair of finals spots from divers Blake Ripes and James Lichtenstein. Lichtenstein, a senior, is fourth overall and Ripes, a sophomore, is 12th. Vernon Hills senior Alex Zuniga is ninth.
Lakes senior Kyle Aerne battled through a tough day for a finals spot in the 100 breastroke. His time of 57.09 is sixth.
Kirk Dickson of Grayslake Central, Pat King of Libertyville, Theo Vergis of Mundelein, Ryan Constantino and Hunter Ihrig of Warren, Brenden Bolman of Grayslake North and Dimitriy Pelutis of Stevenson also competed in the prelims.
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