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updated: 2/17/2014 11:44 PM

Metea Valley sees good things ahead

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By Neil Shalin
Daily Herald Correspondent

The Naperville-area boys swimming sectional is thought by many to be the toughest in Illinois, and this year's host Metea Valley is poised to make a strong bid for the sectional team title in addition to qualifying a number of swimmers for state.

The Mustangs, who are hosting the Naperville-area sectional, for the second time in three years, are coming off an impressive Upstate Eight Conference championship performance last Saturday, and they're hoping their momentum carries over to this week's event.

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Metea's core swimmers, both individual and relay teams, are given a good chance to qualify for the state meet the following weekend at Evanston.

"I think our kids are set up well to perform at their best at sectionals and state," said Metea Valley coach Mark Jager. "Winning conference for the first time in our history was one of our goals. And doing well at this sectional, which is traditionally among the fastest in the state, is what we've been pointing to all season."

Leading the way for the Mustangs is Matt Salerno, one of the top all-around swimmers in Illinois, who is capable of scoring in just about any event.

At last week's conference meet Salerno won the 50 freestyle, finished second to teammate Jordan O'Brien in the 100 breaststroke and was a member of both the winning 200 medley and 200 freestyle relay teams.

"At this point we don't know exactly where Matt will go at sectionals," Jager said. "But whichever events he lands in we have a chance to score. Both of those relays are capable of finishing in the top 12."

In addition to Salerno, and O'Brien, the Mustangs will feature Trevor Sandberg, Alex Dillman, Alex Walter, Kevin Kluge, Cam Gidlow and conference diving champion Connor Cast.

"Our sectional swimmers will be rested and ready to swim the fastest they've gone all year," Jager said.

Another conference champ competing at Metea Valley will be Naperville Central, which wrapped up its first DuPage Valley Conference crown since 2011 last Saturday.

The Redhawks' top man, senior Connor Lamb, won both the 200 IM and the 500 freestyle at conference and he's looking forward to topping his 2013 seventh-place IM finish at state. Lamb also swam on the winning 200 medley relay team along with Scott Piper, Phillip Sajaev and Eric Gerlach.

Diver Peter Rusenas, who won the DVC crown, has been a consistent winner all year. He and teammate Joe Gucwa, who finished third in conference, give the Redhawks a pair of divers capable of scoring at state.

Gerlach, Scott Piper and Christian May are among a number of Redhawks who can make the state cut this weekend.

"We have two or three strong guys for every race," said Naperville Central coach Mike Adams. "It's been difficult choosing the two who will compete in each individual race and especially hard to choose the people for the relays. Our guys have worked hard all year and they're focused on making the state cuts this weekend."

Waubonsie Valley and Neuqua Valley, which finished second and third in the Upstate Eight, are also looking to qualify a number of people this weekend.

Among the Waubonsie Valley standouts are member of the UEC champion 400 freestyle relay team -- Michael Schwers, Bailey York, Nathan Morris and Bradin Krug.

Neuqua Valley's Drew Dvorchak, who won both the 100 butterfly and the 100 backstroke in conference heads a Wildcats cast that includes Joe Widuch, Brett Whaley, Simon Shatinsky, Matt Ciezczak and Michael Peters, while Naperville North has high hopes for Albert Yao, the DVC 100 breaststroke champion, Steven Missak and diver Thomas Petersen.

Lake Park, which finished an impressive second in its first year as a member of the DuPage Valley Conference, will be competing in the Downers Grove North sectional.

Sean Gregor, who won both the 100 and 200 freestyle races in the DVC and helped the Lancers win both the 200 and 400 free relays, is Lake Park's leader.

The Lancers' Kevin Siciak, Mitch Carzoli, Brandon Sgarbossa and diver Jack Reilly are other standouts who are candidates to qualify.

"Judging by the ways these guys swam at conference, we're looking to do well at sectionals and state," said Lake Park coach Dan Witteveen. "We're really excited about this weekend."

Wheaton co-op is also at Downers Grove North, and Max St. George, who won the 100 backstroke in the DVC, Tommy Reminger and Matt Rogers, who have been among the best in the area all season, are the leading candidates to qualify.

Powerhouse Hinsdale Central, which finished second at state last year and is expected to win the Downers Grove North sectional, is led by freshman star Franco Reyes, the West Suburban Silver champ in both the 200 IM and the 100 breaststroke.

Top-flight veterans Brian Portland, Banistre Lienhart, Brian Powell, Aniel Srivastava, Patrick Mis, Craig Smith, Adam Pircon and diver Sam Pielet are ready to lead the Red Devils to another fine showing at state.

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