In many ways, St. Charles East's College Events Meet comes at the perfect time every year for the boys swimming co-op involving Dundee-Crown, Jacobs and Hampshire.
Moving away from its Christmas vacation training and with still a month before the postseason, coach Rick Andresen's team gets an opportunity to see how it fares in a meet where distances involve all the usual high school races and 200-yard races that are twice the usual high school distance in each stroke, and also a 1,000 freestyle event.
The co-op finished third in the four-team meet on Saturday and used the competition to literally stretch its competitive legs.
"It's a good challenge for them," Andresen said. "We practice real hard over winter break. We look at where we're at when we're done with this. And now it's all downhill returning to high school yards. Hopefully now they'll bounce back and do well in their regular high school events."
The meet, which was won by Highland Park with the host Saints second, gives Andresen a good judge for where his team sits as it heads into the final heavy training period before the conference and sectional meets that highlight February.
"A month ago, I was going 'we've got a lot of work to do,'" Andresen said. "But they worked hard over break and they've progressed. They've gotten back to where they should be."
While the core of the co-op team is young, there are some on the squad who harbor collegiate aspirations. For them, a college events meet is more than just something to mess around with once a season.
"We only have a couple of seniors," Andresen said. "It's mostly freshmen and sophomores. It's a great experience for them and some of them swam really well today."
One swimmer who expects to swim in college is senior Alex Reinbrecht, who won the 200 freestyle and the 500 freestyle and was second in the 400 IM.
"I think overall, they were good races," Reinbrecht said. "The 400 IM isn't my race, but overall, I felt OK. I like the college events meet because it gives us a chance to see the college events. You have to become more of a distance swimmer."
Reinbrecht hasn't decided where he is headed to college, but he said he does expect swimming to figure in his future.
"These are the sort of races I'll be doing," Reinbrecht said.
The 500 freestyle is a meet competed in high school, and recent performances have been strong. He has been as fast as 4:47, which is the state qualifying time. He swam 4:52.24 on Saturday, and these times come before the season-ending resting period called tapering that produces large time drops.
"I'm hoping to place highly in that event at state," Reinbrecht said.