Peak performance powers Barrington
Right on schedule, the Barrington boys swimming team was peaking.
That paid serious dividends at the sectional meet the Broncos hosted Saturday afternoon.
Barrington led the way with six champions out of 12 total events, all of whom advanced to next weekend's state meet at New Trier. The Broncos also had eight total qualifiers, the most among a crowded field of strong squads, including Stevenson, which won the team title with 238 points.
"We talk about it every day at practice -- incremental improvement," Barrington coach John Valentine said. "The team mindset for today was to try to have best times across the board. I think what we saw was vast improvement on some of the individual swims. Hopefully we'll have better times even this coming week up at state."
The Broncos were led by a paid of Colins -- O'Leary, who won the 100-yard butterfly (51.52 seconds) and set a school record in the 100 backstroke (50.93), and Cross, who did likewise in the 200 individual medley (1:55.58) and the 100 breaststroke (58.16). The pair also led off the winning 200 medley relay team, which set a pool record in 1:36.20, teaming with Andrew Fish and Mitchell Gavars to get the job done.
Saturday was about redemption for O'Leary, who took second in the 100 fly and 100 back last year's sectional. Never mind the fact that he got to state in both events -- it still stuck in his craw.
"It feels really good," he said of achieving his second trip to state, but he added preparation this time around will be different. "I need to keep on working hard at practice, but not all the way, because I remember at state I didn't do that well because I peaked more at sectionals than at state."
Cross was just happy he stuck his freestyle in the 200 IM, slipping past Palatine's Alex Bartosik, who qualified as the runner-up in 1:55.85, handily beating the state qualifying time of 1:58.35.
Also qualifying for state for Barrington was Gavars, who won the 500 freestyle in 4:41.50, and Chase Lesniak, second in the 100 breaststroke in 1:00.27, just a hair ahead of the state qualifying time of 1:00.50.
Palatine tied McHenry with five state qualifiers, led by Bartosik, who anchored the winning 400 freestyle relay (3:11.72) in addition to his second-place finish in the 200 IM, which set a school record.
"It was kind like last sectionals -- it was just a miracle to me," Bartosik said of that race. "Last week at conference I went a 2:04. Felt horrible, but I put myself together and I pulled out a 1:55."
Palatine's Jake Klein qualified in the 500 freestyle by taking third in 4:42.88 and did the same in the 200 freestyle in 1:43.93. The Pirates' other qualifier was junior Marcus Carter-Buckman, third in the 100 backstroke in 53.70.
How will Palatine coach John Schauble prepare his state-bound charges this week? It's simple, really.
"More rest," he said. "Just rest, and keep their confidence up."
Another Mid-Suburban West Division school with a solid day was Fremd, which had its only qualifier in the 200 freestyle relay by winning the event in 1:27.47.
"(This week) is going to be a lot of fixing up the ups and downs during our swim," said senior Roshan Rajan, who led off the relay ahead of teammates Austin Yurasek, Kenny Benjamin and Nick Nevins. "We had a little choppiness, but we're going to smooth that out and hopefully go faster than we went today. We want to get to the finals at state."
Stevenson, fresh off its North Suburban Conference meet victory last week, took the sectional team title behind Nick Koto, who qualified by winning the 200 freestyle in 1:47.57. He also advanced to state in the 500 freestyle by finishing fourth at 4:43.64, well ahead of the state qualifying time of 4:46.85. And for good measure, Koto led off the Patriots' 400 freestyle relay team that finished second to Palatine in 3:12.54, less than 2 seconds ahead of the state-qualifying time.
Not a bad day at the office for Koto, who advanced to state in the 200 free for the third straight year, finishing top-12 a year ago. Does it ever get old?
"Not really," he said. "I've been changing up my stroke a lot, so it was more about experimenting with it (in the 200 free), not going out as fast but then trying to come home as fast as I can."
Koto's teammate in the 200 freestyle, Dimiltry Pelutis, also made it to state with his fifth-place time of 1:44.59, dangerously close to the state-qualifying time of 1:44.92.
All this, along with the team title, left Stevenson coach Greg Hartman with a big smile.
"Individual performances matched personal bests and many season-best times, nobody really slowed down, and we're always moving forward," Hartman said, adding that he was particularly pleased with Koto.
"He's the leader by example in terms of showing what you're supposed to do at the end of a season, and he's not done yet," he said. "He's not shaved down at this meet; he's just rested, looking for a real strong performance next week, and scoring a few more points at the state meet."
Cary-Grove also was also coming off a conference meet win, and was led by junior Cooper Langanis who qualified in two events -- taking second in the 500 freestyle (4:42.33) and fourth in the 200 freestyle (1:44.47). In the former race, Langanis held the lead for most of the way before being nipped at the finish by Barrington's Gavars.
"It's amazing -- it's way better than I expected it to be," Langanis said of qualifying for the first time. "It's so relieving, after three years of hard work, it's great. The first half of (the 500 free) I felt so good. I died a bit at the end, but I'm not even mad about that."
"Cooper swam exceptionally well," Cary-Grove coach Rick Schaefer said, pleased with Langanis's efforts. "Oh my gosh, yeah, you look at last year to this year, from what he did at conference, that was about a five-second drop, so that's what we were kind of hoping for."
Cary-Grove's other qualifier was freshman Nick Jasinski, who was the runner-up in the 100 backstroke in 53.09.
• The Jacobs co-op team was short-handed due to the absence of one of its top swimmers, junior Francis Ogaban, who was injured in a car accident Friday night. According to coach Rick Andresen, Ogaban was "pretty banged up," which cast a sad pall over the team.
• Hoffman Estates didn't send anyone to state Saturday, but did set three school records: The 200 medley relay team of Jacob Pasaye, Andy Hobar, Bartosz Widelak and Joe Smiley (1:38.99); and Pasaye in the 200 IM (2:02.08) 100 backstroke (54.14).
• A bit of a surprise was Conant sophomore Cole Aykroid's winner in the 1-meter diving competition. He defeated a strong field by amassing 448.15 points, well ahead of Fremd's Zach Mega (435.65) and Chase Jauch (415.05), both of whom should advance based on top state-wide results. "Zach was great competition, and I worked all year just to beat him because I knew he was good." It's Aykroid's first trip to state.
• One of the more heart-warming scenarios involved Schaumburg's Evan Wahlen, who finished ninth in the 500 freestyle with a time of 4:59.94, and became the 10th swimmer in school history to break the five-minute mark. After his score was posted, his coach, Paul Desruisseaux, pulled off his shirt, revealing a custom-made T-shirt that listed the first nine, dating back to 1980. "I'm excited to be part of that club," Wahlen said. "It's really important to me. It's been something I've been working for all season."
· McHenry was led by Kevin Braun, who easily won the 50 freestyle (21.42) and the 100 freestyle (46.85).