Boys swimming: Oyston helps Stevenson win 9th straight NSC crown

Stevenson senior diver Finlay Oyston told an incredulous story near the end of Saturday’s North Suburban Conference boys swimming and diving championships at Lake Forest.

It starred Oyston.

And it took place more than three years ago, at the Patriots’ natatorium.

“It’s kind of funny, what happened to me,” Oyston began. “I accidentally tried out for swimming instead of diving as a freshman.”

He knew something was amiss when the session ended and he hadn’t attempted one dive.

“I found out later that day that I got cut,” Oyston recalled. “I also found out that I’d get to try out for diving the next day.”

Oyston made the JV diving squad in November 2020 and won the NSC JV title months later. Friday night — when the NSC diving segment was held at Libertyville on the eve of the swim events — Oyston was a cut above the rest of the varsity field this time, totaling a first-place and personal-best score of 431.5 points, ahead of Libertyville’s Hayden Cook (2nd, 418.05) and Mundelein freshman Jack Hansen (3rd, season-best 391.1).

“It had been a goal of mine all season, plus I didn’t want to end our streak,” Oyston, a technically sound athlete off the boards, said, referring to Patriots having captured the previous five NSC diving championships.

Speaking of streaks, Stevenson stretched to nine the number of consecutive conference team titles it has amassed. Coach Doug Lillydahl’s crew, paced by record-setting Colin Zhang, won eight other events at the 12-event meet and racked up 410 points. Runner-up Lake Forest scored 359, followed by Warren (274), Libertyville (271), Mundelein (264) and Zion-Benton (107).

Zhang touched the final wall in the 200-yard freestyle in a sizzling 1:38.95 to supplant the former meet-record time of 1:40.33.

“Half of our team today will compete in our sectional (next weekend),” Lillydahl said. “So, for the other half of our team, they considered today’s meet their ‘Super Bowl,’ their ‘state meet.’

“Lots of chances for high excitement,” he added.

Zhang also topped the 100 butterfly field in 48.85 and collaborated with Kyler Chou, Diego Rosario-Freytes and Liam Plautz to win the 400 free relay (3:08.14). The Pats’ other gold-garnering swims Saturday: Allan Zhu (200 IM, 1:57.53); Rosario-Freytes (100 free, 47.62); Maxim Kolbunov (500 free, 4:42.52); Olin Kusevskis (100 backstroke, 53.2); and Sirui Wang (100 breaststroke, 59.66).

Kolbunov was only 30-percent tapered but dropped more than 7 seconds off his seed time Saturday. He described his turns in the distance race as “awful.” The Patriot was asked to grade his turns.

“I’d give them a ‘B,’” Kolbunov said, adding he’d executed his race plan (keep steady in the first 250 yards, sprint in the back half) well. “A ‘B’ is good, but not in our program. I like that we have high standards at Stevenson.”

Warren senior Billy Lawing stood tall Saturday. You would have, too, had you become the only non-Stevenson swimmer to win an individual event. Lawing — ill as late as Friday — clocked a first-place 21.72 in the 50 free. He was 60-percent healthy, 90-percent tapered.

“My race plan?” said Lawing, who transferred from Highland Park to Warren before the start of his sophomore year. “It was pretty simple. It was, ‘Go fast.’”

“Billy had been sick all week,” Warren coach Kim Lobitz said. “And when I saw he’d been seeded first in the 50 free, I felt for him, because I’d feared he wouldn’t be able to swim today. If anybody deserved to have the chance to win an NSC title in his final season, it was Billy. He’s a coach’s dream and a genuinely good kid.”

Lawing also swam on a pair of runner-up relays (200 free, 400 free) with Evan Di Vito, Nate Thiemeyer and Reed Thiemeyer. Nate Thiemeyer silvered in the 100 free (48.05).

Mundelein’s Hansen, the Mustangs’ top diver, also overcame a health issue. He had injured his right foot — it banged off the board in the middle of his reverse-double plunge — at practice Thursday afternoon. The collision cut the session short.

“I wrapped up my foot,” said Hansen, a longtime gymnast who had never thrown a competitive dive in his life until his varsity debut in December.

Hansen recovered nicely and earned 7.5s after his front-double dive on Friday. His third-place 391.1 obliterated his previous season-best score of 357.

“Jack has been diving well because of his technique,” Mundelein diving coach Melissa Sethna said. “Plus he’s gutsy and he listens well. Everything clicked for him Friday.”

Mundelein’s Trey Halas, Alec Sethna, Zach Gonzalez and Cameron Wiklund combined for a fourth-place 1:43.84 in the 200 medley relay.

Libertyville coach Greg Herman lauded swims from rested Wildcats Ethan Audette (200 free 500 free) and Aaron Skarbek (100 free, 100 breast). Luke Buciero took fourth in the 500 free (5:16.6) and helped the 400 free relay place fourth (3:27.99; with Nicholas Ozimek, Max Shores and Shreyas Moorthy).

Lake Zurich also competed Saturday but not as a team. Chase Slagter finished fifth in the 200 IM (2:04.13) and 100 fly (55.57) events and anchored the Bears’ fourth-place 200 free relay (1:35.72; with Kryspin Szczech, Owen Becker and Sebastian Railian).

The host Scouts sped to a pair of relay victories. Miles Liebovich, Charlie McGlynn, Ben Longeway and Timmy Rukavina opened Saturday’s action with a first-place 1:36.22; McGlynn, Stefan Cucuz, Liebovich and Rukavina won the 200 free relay in 1:27.51.

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