At the state swimming meet on Saturday, Nick Zito of the Addison Trail-Willowbrook co-op team went in to the finals seeded first after swimming a 1:51.22 in Friday's prelims.
He even dropped time Saturday, but his 1:50.05 wasn't quite enough to top New Trier's Jae Park, who touched in 1:50.04.
"I made a late run and tried to run him down," said Zito, a 6-foot-8 senior. "But I just couldn't get there. It was the best time I've ever gotten, but that's a hollow victory. This is really bittersweet because I came so close to getting the championship."
Zito, who also finished fourth in the 100 breaststroke, finished seventh in the breaststroke as a junior and he didn't score in the 200 IM.
His swimming success is a tribute to his ability to overcome obstacles since he has no high school pool in which to train and he has to commute more than a half hour to practice every day at an Addison health club.
"Not having a pool and the long commute just makes me work harder," Zito said. "I have to outwork all the other guys who have pools and no commute."
Coach Kirk Ziemke was disappointed for Zito but is also amazed by the swimmer's season and specifically with his work this weekend in the IM.
"I couldn't be prouder of him," Ziemke said. "His work in the finals was the gutsiest swim I've ever seen. Last year he finished 15th in the IM in the prelim. So he moved up to second place by chopping five seconds off his best effort from last year. That's amazing."
Ziemke said Zito has been a great influence on the co-op swimming program.
"He's a great swimmer and a great student," Ziemke said. "He came in as a freshman and he was our first year-round club swimmer. His older brother Damon followed and everything took off from there.
Damon, now swimming at Wisconsin, finished third at state in the 100 free and seventh in the 200 free two years ago.
Zito, who hasn't decided on a college as yet, hopes his efforts at state will earn some recognition in the schools for the swimming program.
"Sometimes you feel you're not getting as much attention as the other sports," he said.
The state meet was won handily by host New Trier, which scored 189 points.
Second-place Hinsdale Central, which won the 200 freestyle relay and finished in the top four in all three relays, scored 95 and Lake Forest was third with 93 points. Marmion was seventh with 63 points and Waubonsie Valley was ninth with 61.
"This team has been on a mission the past two years," said Hinsdale Central coach Corky King. "And today they made their big move. We have great senior leadership. But most important is that these kids have lot of character and heart. They believe, they care and they do all the right things. It means a lot to be the 200 freestyle relay champion."
The winning relay team included seniors Connor Schroyer and Will Leach and sophomores Brian Powell and Brian Portland.
The 200 medley relay with Schroyer, Leach, Portland and senior Eddie Mapel was second, and the 400 freestyle relay team of Schroyer, Portland, Leach and Banistre Lienhart was fourth.
The Red Devils finished fourth last year when they were led by state champion Danny Thomson, now at Stanford.
"Nobody believed we could be this good without our star swimmer, without Danny," Leach said. "But we wanted to step out of the shadow. We're really a phenomenal team."
Adam Stacklin of Waubonsie Valley finished second in the 100 freestyle with a time of 45.42 and fourth in the 200 freestyle.Copyright © 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.