It's hard to call anything in the boys swim season prior to the state meet a "preview," because athletes are in various states of training exhaustion prior to that final weekend.
But two of the teams expected to battle for a state trophy in Evanston Feb. 28-March 1 got a look at each other at the St. Charles North Invitational, and put together some very high-quality competition.
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Libertyville, which finished fourth in the state a year ago, placed second at the St. Charles North Invitational. The meet's winner was Normal U-High, which was fifth in the state last year.
"We're looked at by the rest of the state as a team that can compete at the state meet for a state championship," Libertyville junior Matt Harrington said. "Some other teams have also been looked at that way, U-High especially. We want to be competitive with them in meets where we're both together -- and we were both here."
Harrington won the 100-yard butterfly, was sixth in the 100 breaststroke and helped the Wildcats sweep the day's relays. Harrington swam on the 200 medley relay and the 200 freestyle relay.
"This meet features a lot of downstate teams," Harrington said. "Being in the North Suburban Conference, we don't get to see a lot of those teams. But I have a couple of buddies on U-High -- Adam Drury and Jake Miller. And I know Jared Schimmelpfenning from Notre Dame, and they were here too. I really value getting to see them again and to see them race."
Libertyville's other event champion was Alex Snarski, who won the 50 freestyle and was second in the 100 butterfly. He swam on the winning medley as well as the victorious 400 freestyle relay.
"(Snarski) won the 50 in 21.8, which is a pretty good time for him," Libertyville coach Bob Groseth said.
Saturday's meet was the final invitational of the season for Libertyville, though there are still key NSC dual meets with Mundelein and Stevenson remaining before the sequence of meets that form championship season, begginning begin with the conference meet on Feb. 15.
"We're letting some of the guys swim events they don't normally get to swim," Groseth said. "We were trying to keep our relays strong, which we did. It was a good meet for us."
As they prepare for these key meets, the Wildcats know they are prepared.
"I feel like we have put in lots of hard training," Harrington said. "We, as a team, have done a very good job of coming together and training extremely well. To have that confidence behind us as we move into this championship season will really help us stand out and perform better."
St. Charles North's invitational allows expanded entries per team per event, which allows coaches a final look at many athletes in a large-format meet.
"It especially helps with relays." Groseth said. "It helps us with maybe the third or fourth spot in the 200 or 400 free relay. The medley is fairly set."
With one month left, Groseth said he likes the positioning of his team with regard to training.
"We got a lot more training in over Christmas than we did last year," Groseth said. "Last year, we lost a week of training over Christmas Break. This year, I think we'll have better performances at the end of the season because of that."
at Hinsdale Central: New Trier, Hinsdale Central and Whitney Young claimed the top three spots in Saturday's Red Devil Invitational hosted by Hinsdale Central.
The Trevians' Jeff Park won the 200-yard IM (1:53.31) and tied with Mundelein's Ayrton Kasemets for the top finish in the 100 breaststroke (58.75). Kasemets was second in the IM in 1:59.80.
Whitney Young's Mossimo Chavez won the 50 free (21.73), and New Trier's Connor Fotsch won the 100 free (48.18).
Palatine, which finished sixth, had its top finish from freshman Alex Bartosik, who took fifth in the 200 IM (2:06.89).
Hinsdale Central's Franco Reyes won the 100-yard butterfly in 50.48.
Warren's top efforts were fifth-place finishes from Tanner Nash in the 100 back (58.72) and from Austin Salisbury in the 100 fly (55.81).