When a team hasn't lost to its crosstown rival for more than a decade, there is some pressure -- and St. Charles North certainly felt it heading into Thursday's meet against St. Charles East.
"There was a lot of hype because we haven't lost to them in a long time and we didn't want to be the team that ended that," St. Charles North sophomore Stephen Hutchinson said.
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So in order to get ready for this year's East-North meet, the North Stars watched "Miracle," the 2004 movie about the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team.
St. Charles North then went for aquatic gold in its own pool and claimed a 100-86 victory.
"We started this season a little shaky," Hutchinson said. "Over the season, we've seen guys realize that they need to do what they need to do. They have stepped it up and performed well, especially at this meet."
Both teams are greatly changed this year. In St. Charles North's case, a core group of swimmers graduated, leaving plenty of spots for team leadership as well as positions on the varsity roster.
"Last year, we were going to meets thinking 'I am going to the best I can do' and someone like Kyle Gannon or Nick Kowaleski will get the lead for us," Hutchinson said. "This year, we don't have that. We had to step up and see who can perform in the situations they need to perform in."
Hutchinson was one of those who had a strong meet for the hosts. He was part of the winning 200-yard medley relay, claimed the 100 freestyle and was part of the victorious 200 freestyle relay.
Another was sophomore Joe Myhre, who moved to St. Charles from Indianapolis prior to this school year. Coming away from his team's strong Christmas training, Myhre was also part of the winning 200 medley relay and 200 freestyle relay and also won the 50 freestyle and the 100 backstroke.
"I feel a lot faster," Myhre said. "I feel tired but I feel pretty fast in the water. I don't feel 100 percent. I feel kind of sore, but I felt pretty good."
St. Charles East felt pressure heading into the meet as well. The majority of the swimmers on both teams compete for St. Charles Swim Club, meaning they are teammates nine months of the year and friendly rivals for the remaining three months.
"When you go against another team, it's more hatred," Nick Wellman said. "It's a situation where we don't know them so much. But when we come here, we're swimming against our buddies. It's more of a healthy competition. We still want to win, but it's a more friendly competition."
The Saints got off to a rough start when Wellman was disqualified in the 200-yard medley relay.
"When I Dqed, I did not think I did," Wellman said. "Coach Cabel trains us to be kind of crazy with our starts and I was confident with my start. I was a little too confident. You've got to go all or nothing, and unfortunately, it happened."
Wellman answered any questions as to his ability to handle adversity when he recovered to finish second to Hutchinson in the 100 freestyle by .01. He also placed fourth in the 50 freestyle and swam a leg in his school's 400 freestyle relay, which cruised to victory.
"One of the guys on the team was talking to me when I was sitting disappointed after the DQ," Wellman said. "He said that you've got to use that disappointment and almost that anger in your next race. It's an 'I know now what not to do.' You take it with a grain of salt but you've got to learn from your mistakes and use it to make your next race better."
Another of the Saints standout performers Thursday was Will Shanel, who won the 100 butterfly, the 100 breaststroke and was part of the winning 400 freestyle relay.
"This was our best chance to win this meet in maybe eight years," Shanel said. "They've always dominated."
The Saints have their sights set on a record for the number of yards swum in practice, and they seem on-target to reach that goal. Determining where the team is competitively is difficult, given the heavy training.
"If you would have asked me that question a week ago, I would have absolutely no idea," Shanel said. "Winter training is one of those things we don't ever want to go through again. This week we had finals and still had double practices. Right now, I think it's turning out great."