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updated: 1/23/2014 8:28 PM

Libertyville swimmers planning to level up

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  • Libertyville swimmers, from left, Matt Harrington, Bobby Snader, Atticus Rush, and Alex Snarski, set pool records at Libertyville in the 200 medley, 200 freestyle and 400 freestyle relays last week. They're after bigger goals in the coming weeks, including a top-three finish in the state meet.

      Libertyville swimmers, from left, Matt Harrington, Bobby Snader, Atticus Rush, and Alex Snarski, set pool records at Libertyville in the 200 medley, 200 freestyle and 400 freestyle relays last week. They're after bigger goals in the coming weeks, including a top-three finish in the state meet.
    Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer


A fierce competitor, Bobby Snader, nonetheless, wants no part of the discussion.

His Libertyville swim teammates may not be too proud to admit they play Pokemon video games with each other online, but handsome "Hollywood" will pass on this spotlight.

Why? Because, well, it's Pokemon, after all.

"It's for 7-year-olds," Snader says with a roll of the eyes.

"He's against it," Matt Harrington says, "but he's the minority on the team."

There are Pokemon trading cards, too, mind you.

"But we don't play with those," Alex Snarski says. "That's for babies."

In the pool, Snader, Harrington, Snarski, Atticus Rush and Justin Fu are men among boys. They helped Libertyville achieve its highest finish ever at state last year, as the Wildcats placed fourth.

The Wildcats, whose deep roster also includes speedsters Mark Boynton and Pat King, have expectations of winning a top-three trophy at state next month. Which doesn't mean boys can't be boys out of the water.

"Breaking news," Harrington jokes, "LHS swim team endorses Japanese video game."

True, bigger, headline-worthy news for the Wildcats broke last week when Snader, Snarski, Harrington and Rush registered Libertyville pool records in all three relays against Warren. The 200-yard medley relay clocked a 1:36.80, breaking the previous pool record of 1:39.57. The 200 freestyle relay went 1:27.12 (old record 1:28.59), before the 400 free relay established a third pool mark with a time of 3:12.89 (old mark 3:15.23).

"We went into that meet thinking that was definitely our goal to get all three records," Snader says. "Alex's goal was also to get the 100 back, but he was kind of tired coming out of that 200 free relay."

"I didn't realize there wasn't a break after the 200 free relay," Snarski says. "Hopefully I'll get it next week."

At 6-foot-2 and 195 pounds, Snader is cut like a hard-hitting linebacker or safety -- or surfer. The tall blond senior says his dad calls him "Hollywood" -- for obvious reasons, apparently. Snader has received interest from college swimming coaches at all levels and wants to compete at the next level.

The 6-foot, 170-pound Rush, who's also a senior, is deciding between Marquette and Wisconsin. He plans to test the Naval ROTC waters but not the competitive pool waters. He swam all three relays and the 200 IM at state last year.

Harrington (5-10, 160) is the smallest among the four and the only junior. He, too, wants to swim in college. And who wouldn't want a guy who, as a sophomore, won state medals in the 100 butterfly (third) and 50 freestyle (fifth)?

Snarski is also star material, a Wildcat who will remain a Wildcat after this season. Signed with Northwestern, the 6-2, 165-pound senior was the state runner-up in the 100 backstroke as a junior, while also earning a sixth-place medal in the 100 fly. He chose NU, where he plans to study mechanical engineering, over Purdue.

And, no, Libertyville coach Bob Groseth, who coached at Northwestern for 20 seasons before retiring in 2009, did not influence Snarski's decision to go to college in Evanston.

"Actually, I didn't even talk to him about colleges until the day before I decided," Snarski says. "But every single coach I talked to, once I mentioned Bob, they would be like, 'Oh, yeah, Bob and I go way back.' "

What all four swimmers also have in common is their admiration for Groseth, a three-time Big Ten coach of the year who's in his second season as Libertyville's head coach.

"Coach Bob makes it special," Snarski says. "He's one of the best coaches in the nation, in my opinion."

"The wisdom that Coach Groseth brings to our team's overall camaraderie and energy has really helped us blossom," Harrington says.

Adds Snader: "He's basically a legend."

This is a team of all-stars, in and out of the water, and there is ample reason to believe the Wildcats will be shining brightly next month in Evanston, which hosts the state meet. In fact, the three pool records set last week might not stand for long, as Libertyville has two remaining home meets: next Thursday against Mundelein and the following Tuesday, Feb. 4, vs. Stevenson.

It's also likely that the three relays will look differently in the postseason, with Fu definitely in the mix. Snarski, for instance, might again swim the 100 back and 100 fly, as he did last postseason. At the 2013 state meet, the foursome of Snarski, Rush, Harrington and Fu placed fifth in the 200 medley relay.

"I just like how we're all really good friends, even when we're not in the pool area," Rush says. "We'll all go home and we'll still text each other and hang out."

That friendship helps once the goggles are strapped on and the tone sounds.

"You don't want to let them down," Rush says of his teammates.

It helps to like the guy who's waiting to hop in the water as soon as you touch the wall, who, when you add up the before-school and after-school hours, spends about a full day with you during the week.

"You kind of have to (like your teammates)," Snarski says.

"We come here and it's dark outside," Harrington says. "We leave here and it's dark outside."

Libertyville has had a successful boys swimming program, but the Wildcats have never hoisted a state trophy (top three). The goal is to win it all this season.

"If we have more than me and Matt score individually, I think it's very realistic," Snarski says.

"If everything comes together perfectly, it definitely is possible," Harrington says.

Groseth has coached Olympian Matt Grevers and probably too many All-Americans to count. He knows special kids when he sees them.

"I think they're really focused this year, they've got high goals, and they support each other," Groseth says of his 2013-14 guys. "They're swimming really fast, even though they're tired. I think they're excited because being a contender in the state meet is a new experience for the school. They're breaking new ground."

Records will continue to break.

* Follow Joe on Twitter: @JoeAguilar64

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