Stevenson swims to own relays title

The quest for New Trier and the state meet in February officially began this week as boys swimming and diving teams were eager to hit the water for the new season.

And while it's obviously competitive in nature, the Stevenson relays on Saturday afternoon served as a fun type of format in that almost all events were relays.

It's a good chance to see where guys' split times are and what kind of combinations coaches can look forward to. Even some team bonding was in order.

"There's definitely that fun factor," said Stevenson coach Doug Lillydahl, whose Patriots made it a three-peat by amassing 244.5 points to comfortably outdistance runner-up Plainfield (200.5). Lyons (181) was third, Cary-Grove (161) fourth, Metea Valley (121) fifth and St. Charles North (118) sixth.

"It's a chance to mix and match and see where we can get guys in the right place," Lillydahl added. "This is a strong test."

Things seemed to be in the right place after the hosts collected first-place medals in five events. Stevenson's 500 freestyle relay got it going, as Josh Song, Richard Lee, Nick Comini and A.J. Carollo touched in 4:25.38.

Two events later, the Patriots' quartet of Phoom Lertsinsongserm, Nate Gates, Max Ryaguzov and Jack Zhang touched first in the 400 medley relay (3:46.97). Lertsinsongserm, Lee, Comini and Christopher Oei won the 100 free relay (41.35). Stevenson then captured the 350 backstroke relay with Beno Maya, Carollo and Zhang (3:51.06).

Sandwiched in between was Lee's second-place effort in the 50 freestyle senior gold heat (21.96). Lee filled in for senior Topher Stensby, who was icing a sore left shoulder. Stensby is the two-time defending state champ in the 50 freestyle.

"We got a nice gauge today," Lillydahl said. "It was also a chance to build camaraderie."

Metea Valley's Samuel Kastan won the 50 free (senior gold) in 21.74. The Mustangs also picked third-place ribbons from 100 freestyle team of Dominic Zagurski, Evan Lopez, Alex Lafferty and Kastan (43.50).

St. Charles North, the preseason No. 1 team in the state, had a strong showing that featured a second-place finish from Sibia Filipovic, Nate Baxter, Brad Whitehurst and Rick Williams.

"Today is all about just getting back in the water," St. Charles North coach Rob Rooney said. "It's a process getting people in the right spots. That way they can learn how to handle a little adversity."

Cary-Grove's Cameron Castro was third in the 50 freestyle gold heat and also swam on the second-place 350 butterfly relay gold.

In the 350-yard backstroke relay, the Warren trio of Jack Tarantino, Nathan Heuberger and Jack Foster touched in 3:36.08. Tarantino filled in for one of the Blue Devils' top point getters, senior Brian Tabourot, who was out ill.

"It's a really nice opportunity, especially for the younger kids," Warren assistant coach Richard Whelan said. "They get to compete in a big meet on a big stage. We're a thriving program with a nice foundation in place."

Warren 's Leo Forney, Jeremy Gunter, Tarantino and Foster touched third in the 500 free relay.

In the 350 backstroke relay green heat, Libertyville's Ben Kistler, Colin McKibben and Richie Rush touched fourth.

Palatine's Sam Adame, Henry Gabriel, Christian Snyder and Stefan Filip took third in the 400 medley relay green heat.

Snyder, Filip, Gabriel and Noah Chon also picked up a second-place ribbon in the 400 free relay green heat.

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