A Classic meet dedication, in honor of Andersen
The limbs of the swimming family tree spread far and wide on Saturday at Prospect High School.
The occasion was the First Annual Don Andersen Classic, an invitational meet hosted by Hersey and renamed in honor of the former Arlington High School swim coach and longtime Dist. 214 aquatics leader.
In addition to his wide-ranging high school contributions, Andersen founded both the Arlington Alligators and Arlington Muskies club teams, as well as the Arlington Heights Park District inter-park system which has been so vital in introducing swimmers to the sport.
Before Saturday's event, Hersey had hosted the invitational at its former home at Olympic Pool. But the terrific new facility at Prospect is Hersey's new home, so the time was right for a name change for the meet.
Hersey coach Dick Mortensen, a veteran of Dist. 214 aquatics who has coached boys and girls swimming and water polo at both Prospect and Hersey, was in a unique position to appreciate Andersen's wide-ranging contribution.
"It just got to a point," said Mortensen, "where I'd heard it so many times -- 'Oh, Don was the first one to do that,' or 'Don got all that started 30 years ago.' So it just seemed like a great way to recognize all he'd done. Getting his name in the title of the meet is the right thing to do."
Arlington Heights Park Board Commissioner Myles Naughton and Dist. 214 board member Mark Hineman supplied remarks in honor of Andersen, who was in attendance and had plenty of friendly faces -- former swimmers and coaches -- on hand to salute him.
Among the prominent supporters was Rob Lindgren, Dist. 214's aquatics coordinator. He's especially well-versed in the Andersen lore, owing to proximity.
Soon after high school, when Lindgren's own father had passed away, his mom ended up re-marrying Andersen.
"Kind of a game-changer for me," said Lindgren.
At present, another generation of Lindgrens is active in the aquatic arts in Dist. 214, and Rob was Wheeling's girls swim coach in the fall.
Andersen's path in the sport includes a couple of major influences. After starting a downstate age-group program, he relocated and began coaching YMCA swimming in Evanston. That led to an opportunity with the legendary Dobbie Burton at the high school level.
Soon after that, Andersen became Evergreen Park High School's coach, where he ended up mentoring a pair of Illinois high school swimming heavyweights.
Dave Bart, who led St. Charles to a run of boys state championships in the 1980s and remains on-deck to this day as an assistant, and Jim Bart, the longtime Barrington girls coach who just completed his final season, both competed for Andersen. And both Bart brothers attended Saturday's ceremony.
As Andersen explained, certain limitations in commitment to the sport at Evergreen Park led to him relocating one more time.
"I was scheduling morning practices," said Andersen with a chuckle, "but nobody was coming. I knew what we had to do to get to the next level, and I had to tell the guys, 'Look, fellas, this just isn't going to cut it.' "
The meet itself was a classic, too.
Deerfield won with 417.5 points, with Conant, the District 300 co-op team and Hersey bunched tightly together at 316.5, 315 and 314 points, respectively.
Hersey junior Michael Petro excelled in winning both the 200-yard IM (1:56.38) and 100 fly (52.45), and teammate Josh Irvine was third in the 500 free and fourth in the 200 free.
Conant's top swimming finishes came from Justin Lim, who was second in the 100 fly (55.34) and third in the 200 IM (2:08.83). And senior Cole Aykroid was dominant in diving, winning with 494.20.
Cougars coach Brian Drenth was excited to see his very young team earn a trophy.
"We're at a point where I think it's helpful for the guys to see some reward for the hard work they've been putting in," Drenth said.
The Jacobs co-op got a victory from Harold Ogaban in the 200 free (1:51.40); he also placed third in the 100 back (55.93). Other top-three efforts came from Reid Coyle (50 free), Alec Orndahl (100 fly) and Elijah Stuart (100 breast).
Hersey's Petro is in the midst of a terrific season, and as Mortensen explained, great coaching never goes out of style. Andersen has taken some time to give Petro some pointers recently, and it seems to have helped.
"He has a very hands-on approach, which is something that I think we've slowly lost in coaching," Mortensen said. "But in this case, I could tell it really made a difference."