Naperville Central won Saturday's Neuqua Valley sectional on Saturday and in the process the Redhawks might have found a budding superstar.
Freshman Scott Piper won the 200-yard individual medley just ahead of his teammate and standout returning state qualifier Connor Lamb to qualify for state. Piper also finished tied for sixth in the 100 backstroke to make the state cut in that event.
The Redhawks scored 202 points, finishing ahead of Waubonsie Valley, which won all three relays. The Warriors scored 189. They were followed by Metea Valley with 173, Naperville North with 167, Marmion with 166 and host Neuqua Valley with 144.
"The 200 IM is a good event for Scott," said Naperville Central coach Mike Adams. "But there are a lot of good events for him because he can do a variety of things well. He's worked hard all year and he really has a bright future."
Piper, whose brother Keith was a member of the victorious 200 and 400 free relay teams on the Naperville Central 2010 state championship team, surprised himself a little with his performance at sectional.
"I knew I would be close to the state time," Piper said, "but I didn't think I would do nearly as well as I did. I didn't expect to feel that good in the water. In every way there was a huge difference between what I thought I would do and what I wound up doing."
"Scott was awesome today," said Lamb, who also qualified for state in the 100 breaststroke. "We got some solid swims from a lot of young guys and that really makes things look good in the future as well."
Noah Wood also had a big day for the Redhawks, winning the 500 freestyle by almost nine seconds with a time of 4:36.80. He also finished second to Waubonsie Valley's Adam Stacklin in the 200 free by a fraction of a second.
"Noah has had a lot of disappointment at this meet and today he just killed it," Lamb said. "David Johnson, who also qualified in the 100 backstroke was also outstanding, and so were some of the guys who just missed qualifying."
Joe Gucwa of Naperville Central was the sectional diving champion.
Senior Michael McWhirter was on all three Waubonsie Valley relay teams and made his day perfect with a win in the 50 freestyle ahead of fellow qualifiers Alan Cartwright of Neuqua Valley and Alex Gidlow of Metea Valley.
"We know that Stacklin is a candidate to score at state," said Waubonsie Valley coach Nick Arens. "But now we feel Michael has the potential to do that as well. We'll need that second scorer to realize our goal of finishing in the top 10 at state."
The Warriors, as they've done all year, displayed excellent depth that translated to dominance of the relay races.
In addition to McWhirter and Stacklin, who finished second and also made state in the 100 freestyle, the Warriors' Stephen Ernst, Kelvin Newton, Bailey York and Nathan Morris were members of one or more relay teams.
"We're close to the All-American cut in the 200 free relay," McWhirter said.
Kevin Kielma of Naperville North, who continued to have a breakout senior year, won the 100 butterfly in 51.69 and also qualified in the 200 IM.
And Steven Tan of IMSA won both the 100 freestyle, where he finished just ahead of Stacklin, and the 100 backstroke, where his 51.09 was a little over a second ahead of runner-up Sam Hiller of Naperville North.
"My former teammate from my freshman year at Waubonsie Valley, Adam Stacklin, swam in the lane next to me in the 100 free," Tan said. "That motivated me to swim faster. I know there's a lot of great competition at state, but I wanted to prove myself today and then improve on that."
Plainfield Central's Brandon Tran won the 100 breaststroke, edging out Matt Salerno of Metea Valley.
Marmion qualified all three relays as well as individuals Dan Creighton (200 IM), Robert Ramoska (100 butterfly) and Jonathan Thielen (100 backstroke)
"The qualifying times keep getting fast and faster, so there weren't as many qualifiers today," said Marmion coach Bill Schalz. "Our relays were good and they all got through. Mike Burke was especially good on the relays. Dan Creighton had a good day."