Stevenson's free relays earn second-day swims
It can be a bit intimidating swimming in front of a packed house, with fans screaming.
Welcome to the state meet at Evanston, where Stevenson sophomore Nick Baginski felt a little more comfortable than most during Friday afternoon's preliminaries.
Baginski, who made it to state last year as part of the Patriots' 400-yard freestyle relay, swam the first leg of the 200 freestyle relay, and his split time of 21.60 seconds got Stevenson off to a great start.
Freshmen Topher Stensby and Jacob Rosenkranz and senior anchor Alex Kapecki took care of the rest, as the Patriots finished in 1:26.28.
Seeded fourth, Stevenson took second in the sixth preliminary heat and 10th place overall, earning the Patriots a spot in Saturday's finals session, which kicks off at noon.
"I know I'm a little more focused and comfortable this time," said Baginski. "You just have to block out the crowd. We got out to a fast start and maintained the lead."
Stevenson's relay's shined again when Baginski swam the opening leg as well for the 400 freestyle relay.
By finishing eighth overall, the team consisting of Baginski, sophomore Karl Wadowski, Kapecki and sophomore Daniel Ng swam a 3:09.64 to also earn a spot in the finals.
"It's always nice to score some points," Stevenson coach Doug Lillydahl said. "This is a hard meet that you have to put a lot of concentration in. Last year, we had a lot of younger swimmers and the goal was to score points and be competitive. Our two relay teams were really ready today and earned every stroke."
Earlier in the day, Baginski was 17th in the 100 butterfly (51.41), while Stensby was 21st in the 50 freestyle after swimming a 21.85.
Other area individuals that advanced to Saturday's finals included Lake Forest's John-Michael Diveris, who was second in diving with 345.80 points. Lake Forest's Dylan Boyd also makes a return trip to the finals session in two events. Boyd took second in the 200 freestyle (1:39.92) and seventh in the 100 butterfly (50.46).
Highland Park's Levy Nathan swam a 1:41.49 to finish fifth in the 200 free and earned a spot in the consolation finals of the 500 freestyle after swimming a 4:36.20 to finish 10th.
Carmel Catholic senior James Dooley entered the state meet after winning sectional championships in the 100 breaststroke and 200 IM, thus becoming the second male swimmer in the school's history to make it to state. The Southern Illinois commit narrowly missed advancing to Saturday's finals, as he finished 18th in the 200 IM (1:55.78) and 19th in the 100 breaststroke (58.78).
"I gained a little time, which hurt," said Dooley, who posted personal-best times in both of his events at sectionals and was the fifth seed in the 200 IM heading into Friday's prelims. "It's a lot to take in (at state), but I'm having a great time. The energy in here is awesome. If I get too serious, I psych myself out."
Vernon Hills senior Brian Rabinowitz qualified for state in three events. He was 33rd in the 100 backstroke and 39th in the 100 butterfly.
"I swam as hard as I could and left everything out there," said Rabinowitz, who capped off his career as a two-time state qualifier. "I've done everything I wanted to and am just taking it all in. No regrets."
Mundelein senior Mike Ward also just missed the top-12. He swam a 51.99 in the 100 backstroke to finish 16th.
DeKalb senior Dan Hein had the day's only state record, in the 100 backstroke. The Missouri-bound standout became the first Illinois swimmer to swim it in under 48 seconds in the event, qualifying to finals in 47.97.
Peoria Notre Dame, Hinsdale Central, Naperville Central and Lyons Township are best positioned to battle it out for a state title in the team standings Saturday.