Kapecki exits with bright outlook for young Stevenson teammates

 
By John Phelps
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 2/27/2016 9:04 PM
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  • Stevenson sophomore Nick Baginski swims in the 400-yard freestyle relay during the boys swimming state finals at Evanston Township High School on Saturday.

      Stevenson sophomore Nick Baginski swims in the 400-yard freestyle relay during the boys swimming state finals at Evanston Township High School on Saturday. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

With graduation just a few short months away, Alex Kapecki takes a degree of comfort in knowing that things will be left in good and able hands.

That's how the Stevenson senior feels, particularly when it comes to the Patriots' 200- and 400-yard freestyle relay teams. And his observation holds plenty of merit.

Kapecki swam on both free relays in the boys swimming and diving state finals session Saturday at Evanston Township High School and again was nearly part of two school records.

"A little bittersweet, I guess," said Kapecki, the lone senior on the squad who has made his mark in Stevenson swimming by qualifying for state three out of his four years.

Kapecki is also a standout water polo player for the Pats and will be playing club water polo when he starts attending Colorado-Boulder next fall.

"It's been a great run," he said, "but I wish I were around for the next couple of years, because these guys are young but they're going to be really good."

Heck, both relays are already pretty darn good now after having earned a pair of medals over the weekend.

In the Pats' first relay of the afternoon, Kapecki swam anchor for the 200, joining sophomore Nick Baginski and freshmen Topher Stensby and Jacob Rosenkranz to finish seventh overall in 1:25.84, just off the school record of 1:25.62 set last weekend at sectionals.

"We were so close, but winning that consolation heat was a great challenge and gave us a real jolt," said Pats coach Doug Lillydahl, whose team finished 18th in the team standings with 24 points. "We're teaching them how to be hunters, and we're really liking the way our relays are swimming."

Baginski is also a returning state qualifier from a year ago, and of course Stensby and Rosenkranz are just getting their feet wet as far as the high school stage is concerned.

"We'll break that record again. We just need to fine tune some things for next year," said Stensby, who was quick to sing the praises of Kapecki. "He has been a great leader and kept us all in line. We have a great future ahead of us."

As for the 400 freestyle relay, the last event of the meet -- that jolt their coach referred to -- kicked in when Stevenson was oh so close again to the school record of 3:08.91.

Baginski again started things off and this time his running mates included Stensby, sophomore Karl Wadowski and Kapecki again as anchor.

The team had qualified eighth from prelims Friday. In the consolation finals Saturday, they clocked in with a personal best 3:09.37, good for an eighth-place medal.

"The adrenalin, the cheering -- it feels great to do well in this environment," said Wadowski, who was quick to credit Kapecki for his leadership and guidance and likes the direction the relays and team are heading. "It's going to be different without him (Kapecki). He's the captain we've always wanted. But as long as we can push forward and keep encouraging one another, we'll have a lot to look forward to."

Lake Forest junior Dylan Boyd picked up a state title, winning the 200 freestyle in 1:37.67. Highland Park junior Nathan Levy was fifth (1:42.29) in the same event.

Lyons Township won the team title with 146 points, while Hinsdale Central finished runner-up with 117.

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