Boys swimming notes: State champs Johnson, Mieczkowski share special relationship

About 20 minutes before the start of the 100-yard backstroke A-Final at last weekend’s boys state swimming and diving meet at FMC Natatorium in Westmont, West Chicago co-op senior Brady Johnson fist-bumped Schaumburg senior Szymon Mieczkowski.

They’re not just friendly rivals; they’re also FMC Aquatic club teammates.

After climbing their respective starting blocks for the 100 back — Johnson was slotted in Lane 4, Mieczkowski in Lane 5 — each had won an event championship on Feb. 24. Mieczkowski topped the 200-free field in 1:37.16, and Johnson won the 100 free in a rapid 43.29.

Oh, and Johnson was the reigning state champ in the 100 back. Last year’s runner-up? Mieczkowski.

  Schaumburg’s Szymon Mieczkowski reacts to his first-place finish in the 200-yard freestyle during the boys state swimming and diving finals at FMC Natatorium on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024 in Westmont. Joe Lewnard/

Johnson pulled his way to another 100-back state title, clocking a swift 46.82 to Mieczkowski’s runner-up 47.04.

Their snappy pre-race fist bump lasted longer than the margin of victory.

“Oh, wow, that was tougher than the 100 free,” said Johnson, a West Chicago High School student. “I’m glad Szymon was next to me, pushing me. It was a battle. We go back and forth. He’s my equal. Now it’s back to training and more grinding. Nothing has changed.

“We’ll see each other at NCAA meets.”

Mieczkowski committed to the University of Kentucky. Johnson will swim for Bob Bowman at Arizona State University.

Bowman coached some fellow named Michael Phelps, who won 23 Olympic men’s swimming gold medals and probably considered renting a castle in England to store that hardware haul.

Three-mendous: Stevenson took fifth last weekend, the Patriots’ third straight top-five finish at state. Coach Doug Lillydahl’s crew won the program’s first state title in 2022 and toted the third-place trophy to Lincolnshire last winter.

Patriots senior and Penn-bound Colin Zhang, a three-time state champion in ’22, earned four more state medals Saturday: silver in the 100 breast (53.3), fourth in the 200 IM (1:48.08), fourth in the 200 medley relay (1:31.65) and fourth in the 400 free relay (3:03.59).

Zhang touched first in the 100 breaststroke and swam on a pair of victorious relays (200 medley, 200 free) two years ago.

Dandy Diego: Stevenson senior Diego Rosario-Freytes also had a busy — and productive — Saturday at state, bowing for three top-six relay medals and a sixth-place prize in the 100 butterfly (48.9).

Name game: Senior sprinter Riley Stevenson swam for Galesburg. Lake Forest junior Simon Back qualified for state in diving.

High five: Five of the state’s top 16 divers last weekend attend Mid-Suburban League schools.

Rolling Meadows senior Kyren Whiting paced the contingent, earning a bronze medal with a 508.85-point total. Barrington junior Krish Patel — the Broncos’ six-and 11-dive record holder — finished sixth (465.85), followed by the Hersey pair of junior Nathan Mabry (eighth, 453.85)/senior Jacob Koclanis (ninth, 449.55) and Buffalo Grove junior Michael Surowienic (11th, 440.1).

“Nathan Mabry,” Huskies diving coach Tom Schwab said, “is a gladiator.”

And a stellar gymnast. Mabry won the all-around title at last spring’s state gymnastics meet.

  Barrington’s Krish Patel dives during the boys state swimming and diving finals at FMC Natatorium on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024 in Westmont. Joe Lewnard/

Well-represented: Athletes from seven Mid-Suburban League schools — Barrington, Schaumburg, Conant, Fremd, Buffalo Grove, Hersey and Rolling Meadows — competed on Day 2 of last weekend’s boys swimming and diving state meet.

The breakdown: five divers; four relays, including three Conant crews; and 15 individual swims, including Schaumburg’s Szymon Mieczkowski (gold, 200 free; silver, 100 back).

Barrington finished in an MSL-best 10th place (65 points). Broncos senior and Penn State-bound Rylan Anselm bronzed in the 500 free (4:27.82) and placed fourth in the 200 free (1:37.85). Junior and Notre Dame recruit Lucas Bucaro placed seventh in the 200 IM (1:50.75).

Conant senior and baseball standout Bryce Loeger motored to sixth in the 50 free (20.54; count on the future Dartmouth pitcher’s ERA to be significantly lower than that this spring) and raced on all three relays.

Buffalo Grove senior Edgar Rutkauskas also hit the water in an A-Final Saturday, touching eighth in the 100 breast (55.93).

Fremd senior and Athletes With Disabilities competitor Sean Grady earned the maximum four medals (all silver), and classmate Jaden Heinlein finished 11th in the 200 IM (1:50.82) and matched that place in the 100 back (50.05).

Fine four: A Vernon Hills relay had never placed in the top 12 at state until freshman Yury Plaksin, junior Dan Berke and seniors Eli Spivak and Edward Zhao collaborated for a sixth-place 3:04.41 in the 400 free relay on Saturday.

David and Goliath (No, Dom): Maine South football coach David Inserra has an .825 winning percentage (231-49) through 23 seasons. But he was 0-for-four-years (. 000) in getting Maine South senior and reigning 50-yard freestyle state champ Dominic Mazurek to come out for football.

“He tried to recruit me, mostly in the hallways,” the 6-foot-6, 220-pound Mazurek said after zipping to a first-place 20.21 in the 50 free Saturday.

The Purdue commit, who could easily pass for either a tight end or a defensive end, also silvered in the 100 free (43.95) and helped the Hawks’ 400 free relay place eighth (3:04.8; with Danilo Marsenic, Alex Wiacek and Max Fedorenko).

Maine South finished eighth (91 points) in the team standings, a year after placing fifth — the program’s first top-10 showing since 1967.

“Maine South is not just a football school,” Mazurek said. “It’s getting to be a swimming school, too. A big reason for that is Coach (Don) Kura. Not all of us swim club, but our coach knows how to put fast relays together and how to get the most out of all of us.

“I think he’s one of the best coaches in the state.”

Bey watch: Hinsdale Central junior Joshua Bey admitted he wasn’t expecting much before the start of the state meet.

“I was thinking, ‘Maybe I’ll get a few mentions (in publications),’” the Indiana recruit said near the end of Saturday’s state finals.

All Bey did for the team champion was capture four gold medals. The Red Devil finished first in the 200 IM in a state-record 1:44.89; first in the 100 breaststroke in a state-record 52.98; helped the 200 medley relay clock a state-record 1:29.13 (with sophomore Matthew Vatev and seniors Jeffrey Hou and Brody Marcet); and swam the second leg of the victorious 200 free relay (1:21.96; with Marcet and seniors Nojus Bertulis and Nate Harris).

  Hinsdale Central’s Joshua Bey celebrates his state-record breaking victory in the 100-yard breaststroke during the boys state swimming and diving finals at FMC Natatorium on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024 in Westmont. Joe Lewnard/

A few mentions?

More like four shout-outs.

The team’s other state championship entrant was the 400 free relay of Bertulis, Harris, Hou and junior Henry Guo. The quartet’s time of 2:59.87 missed matching the year-old state record by only 0.26.

Hou churned for that smashing foursome last winter, along with ’23 graduates Vidar Carlbaum, Noah Priest and Andrew Gilbert.

XX marks the spot: The Chicago Bears won Super Bowl XX in 1986.

Hinsdale Central’s boys swimming and diving program won its XXth state championship last weekend and third under Red Devils coach Bob Barber.

HC captured a ridiculous 12 straight state titles under coach Don Watson from 1967-78.

Barber-guided clubs also won state in 2023 and 2015.

HeGo fast: WeGo’s (West Chicago’s) Brady Johnson had a spectacular Friday in the state prelims, setting state-meet records in the 100 free (43.15) and 100 back (46.65).

Warrior mentality: Waubonsie Valley took third at state Saturday for the second time in six years under coach Christopher Hagenbaumer.

The Warriors stood fourth in the standings and trailed third-place St. Ignatius 138-130 before the final event, the 400 free relay. WV raced in the A-Final, Ignatius in the B-Final.

Ignatius’ Wolfpack finished in 11th (3:05.58). WV’s anchor, senior Sam Lohman, touched seventh (3:04.58) after legs from junior Tyler Bardak and seniors Luke Martens and Shaun Bahl.

Had St. Ignatius placed ninth (the highest place in the B-Final relay), it would have edged Waubonsie 156-154 for third place and WV would have returned to Aurora without a trophy.

WV senior Keian Lam had taken third in the 100 breast (53.89) and fifth in the 200 IM (1:49.83), and Bardak had provided fifth-place points in two events (100 butterfly, 100 back).

Team WV collected the program’s first state trophy back in 1997, under coach Tom Musch. The Warriors (129 points) took runner-up honors to St. Charles East (135) 27 years ago.

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