Naperville Central won only two events at Saturday's Neuqua Valley Invite, but the Redhawks' quality depth carried them through to the championship of the invite for the first time since 2010, the last time they won the state title, as well.
"All year we're surprising a lot of people, including ourselves," said Connor Lamb, the winner of the 200 IM. "To win a meet like this with so many great teams really shows us where we are. And we're tired. As we get older our team has gotten better about swimming tired. We're doing a good job of racing no matter what the circumstances. We're not a team of stars, but we do have depth to win meets like this."
That depth was most apparent in 200 IM and the 100 breaststroke where the Redhawks scored points with four people in the top 10. In the breaststroke Matt Salerno and Jordan O'Brien of Metea Valley finished first and second, while Redhawks came in Nos. 3, 4, 6 and 8.
Lamb credits the challenge mounted by the Mustangs' O'Brien, who finished second, with helping to spur him on to victory in the IM.
"Having Jordan there and coming up on me was really great," Lamb said. "He pushed me in the breaststroke. I was able to kill my middle hundred and everything fell into place."
Naperville Central coach Mike Adams agreed that the team has done a great job this year swimming under adverse circumstances.
"A lot of the boys got up and swam today despite being tired," Adams said. "This is like a mini-state meet and we did what we needed to do. We're getting better each meet, but we're still not where we need to be."
The Redhawks' other win came in the diving competition, where Peter Rusenas and Joe Gucwa finished 1-2.
To win the meet Naperville Central scored 428.50 points, with Hinsdale Central finishing second with 366.50
The Red Devils won the 400 freestyle relay and finished second in both the 200 medley and the 200 free relays, both of which were won by Metea Valley.
Hinsdale Central's Franco Reyes won the 100 butterfly and Brian Portland was the 100 freestyle champion.
"The boys swam very well today, but we can't handle Naperville Central's depth," said Hinsdale Central coach Corky King. "And we really took our lumps from Metea Valley in those two relays."
Metea Valley finished third with 299.50 points winning the two relays and getting a victory from Matt Salerno in the 50 freestyle.
"It was huge for us to win those relays," Salerno said. "We have the depth we need for our relays to score at state."
Host Neuqua Valley, whose Joe Widuch and Drew Dvorchak finished 1-2 in the 100 backstroke, was fourth with 279 points, followed by Waubonsie Valley with 217, St. Charles East, which had the 500 freestyle winner, Will Shanel, was sixth with 151.
Naperville North, which finished seventh with 137, had Steven Missak as the champion in the 200 free and St. Charles North was eighth with 132.50.