Neuqua Valley swimmer Joe Widuch is fast developing into a major factor for the Wildcats for the coming postseason.
Widuch won the 100 backstroke and anchored the victorious 400 freestyle relay team to lead the Wildcats to a championship repeat at Saturday's Mustang Invite at Metea Valley.
"Joe has been a consistent performer all year," said Neuqua Valley coach Chad Allen. "Today he proved that he can win even when he's having a bit of an off-day."
"I'm very pleased with my backstroke win," Widuch said. "It wasn't my best time, but I was concentrating on a few things during the race, such as my starts and turns, which have been lacking lately. I'm trying to put everything together and be ready to go at state."
Widuch, who finished 20th at state in the backstroke last year, is determined to score some points for the Wildcats in this year's state meet.
He was disappointed with last year's result but understood that it was his first time at state and that this year he knows what to expect and he knows the competition.
Earlier this year Widuch won the 100 backstroke at the Evanston Invite and finished second at the New Trier Invite. In both meets he swam against some of the best in Illinois.
"You can count on Joe to be in the hunt in the backstroke against any competition," Allen said.
Recent results show how far Widuch has come since his freshman year.
"When he first swam for us he wasn't very good," Allen said. "But he's worked hard and he's really taken off in the backstroke and as a freestyler. And he's developed into a team leader. He'll swim one of the sprint freestyle individual races at sectional. Joe is something of a late bloomer and we believe he can take it to the next level at sectionals and state."
Widuch credits his recent success, in part, to the faith Allen has had in him over the years.
"He believes in me and the things I can do," Widuch said. "I still have a way to go but my endurance and my technique have improved significantly to the point that I really believe I can score at state."
Widuch believes that Neuqua's 400 freestyle and the 200 medley relays are capable of scoring as well.
At Metea Valley, Widuch anchored the 400 free relay which won by almost six seconds. The other members of the team were Matt Ciezczak, Jake Springer and Drew Dvorchak.
Dvorchak won the 100 butterfly finishing in 52.10.
The Wildcats "B" 400 free relay team finished fourth, demonstrating the depth that carried the team throughout the day.
"Our depth was a big factor," Allen said. "We were able to put three guys in scoring position in the top eight in the backstroke, the IM, the fly and the breaststroke. We have a team with a lot of good swimmers and no weak spot."
The Wildcats scored 470 points for the championship, as host Metea Valley was second with 430 followed by Naperville North 378 and Waubonsie Valley 376.
"Having a team win like this just before the postseason is important," Widuch said. "It gives us the boost we need to achieve the goals we set at the beginning of the season."