In the final 500-yard freestyle of his high school swimming career, Jonathon Burke got exactly the race he wanted.
And the Conant senior made the most of it.
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Qualifying fifth to the championship heat in Saturday's state finals session at New Trier, Burke was determined to stay close to swimmers such as Reed Malone of New Trier and Peter Grumhaus of Lake Forest in the center lanes.
So Burke followed their starting pace, only backing off just a bit at about the halfway point.
"I knew that we'd all gone out at a pretty good pace," he said. "I didn't think I'd be able to quite hold that the entire way."
Once Malone and Grumhaus got some separation, that still left Burke in a tight contest with the swimmer right next to him, Kyle Gannon of St. Charles North. The North Stars junior edged ahead slightly, but Burke had enough in reserve to overtake him and finish his prep career with a flourish.
A best-ever third-place finish, in a lifetime best time of 4:29.90. Malone (4:23.27) ended up edging Grumhaus (4:24.24); those two had the same placement in the 200 free.
Burke said being able to concentrate solely on the 500 Saturday may have helped him more than anything. It also helped that, unlike a day earlier, Burke wasn't fighting through the lingering disappointment of what he considered a lost opportunity.
In Friday's preliminary session, Burke's first race was the 200 freestyle. He didn't advance to the finals, and trying to bounce back mentally was a chore the rest of that day.
"It really is kind of hard, because if I'd just been able to repeat my sectional time, I'd have been in the finals," he said. "But then, swimming is like that. You need to be able to regroup."
For Barrington, it was smooth sailing in the finals.
The Broncos got a fifth-place finish from senior Kyle Ujiiye in the 100 fly and a ninth-place finish from Jack Strauss in the 100 free.
All three of Barrington's relays improved their time from prelims, and team records were broken in each case. Best of all, each relay either moved up or held its seeded position, all of which helped the Broncos net 38 points and a 12th-place team finish.
"I'm just really happy for my guys," said coach John Valentine. "We were prepared for this day, and it really showed up in the performances."
The medley relay of Brandon Baranowski, Sam Miseyka, Kyle Ujiiye and Sebastian Piekarski finished 10th in 1:36.21, an improvement of two places.
The 200 free relay of Miseyka, Piekarski, Ujiiye and Strauss held its eighth-place seed but lopped another half-second from its qualifying time, finishing in 1:25.69.
And Barrington's 400 free relay of Ujiiye, Piekarski, Chris Vega and Strauss, seeded 12th, punctuated the session with a 3:08.80, more than a second better than its qualifying effort. Strauss' anchor leg was key, as he overtook three relays that were ahead of Barrington when he entered the water.
"Last swim, no reason to hold anything back," Strauss said. "I took it out really aggressively and just tried to put everything into the race."
Ujiiye was deeply pleased to see the completion of what was a very successful season for Barrington's program.
On a more personal level, there was already a tinge of sadness as he discussed the just-finished season -- and stellar high school career -- poolside at New Trier.
"It's bittersweet for me," he said. "My favorite part of the school year is the three months when I'm in swimming. Part of me just wishes it could keep going.
"But I'm super proud of this team, this group of guys. I wouldn't trade this for anything."
Fremd senior Andrew King, meanwhile, would gladly trade away the third turn of his 100-yard freestyle consolation heat. Water had filled his goggles on the start, and although he made it OK through his first two turns, he barely got his feet on the wall for turn No. 3.
His time reflected that in a 12th-place finish, but King also had a lifetime best Saturday.
In the 50 free, he continued to lower his own personal best. His 21.34 was good for a 10th-place finish.
"Last year, I was really excited just to make it to the state meet," said King, who will continue to swim next at Wisconsin-Stevens Point. "This year was different, because I was really hoping to do something here. The 50 was good -- I'll take it."
A sometimes teammate of King's outside the high school season in the Palatine Park District Program, Hoffman Estates senior Nick Jessee wasn't able to drop time or placement from his prelim efforts.
But scoring points in two races at this state meet is no small accomplishment. Jessee took 12th in the 200 free and 11th in the 100 free.
"Overall I'm pretty happy with how things turned out," said Jessee, who will compete at St. Louis University next year. "I mean, this is an insanely fast meet."
Adding to the insanity in finals was Mundelein senior Connor Black.
The Stanford-bound senior got the crowd on its feet with his victory in the 100 butterfly, shattering his own state record set the day before and breaking the high school national record with a 46.71. His split at the halfway point was 21.89.
Black also won the 50 free in 19.95, just a bit slower than his time the day before.
Other winners were Loyola senior Andrew Jovanovic in the 100 back (48.25), Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin junior Ryan Held in the 100 free (44.43) and New Trier junior Jae Park in the 100 breaststroke (55.86) and 200 IM (1:50.04). Normal University senior Brandis Heffner won diving (447.25).
New Trier won the medley relay and the 400 free relay and placed third in the 200 free relay to win its fourth state championship in the last five seasons with 189 points.
Hinsdale Central finished second with 96, ahead of Lake Forest (93), Libertyville (78), Normal University (68) and Loyola (67).