Stevenson, and a swimming surprise, at Vernon Hills

By John Phelps
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 2/18/2017 8:30 PM

The noise and cheering were minimal when he stepped to the podium to receive his second-place medal.

That's because, chances are, not too many knew who he was -- especially after hearing that he was from Grayslake Central.


When it comes to swimming program strength in Lake County, most are familiar with the likes of Stevenson, Libertyville, Warren, Mundelein, Vernon Hills, Lake Forest.

Well, Rams sophomore Charles Schober did a good job of throwing a little curveball into that equation on Saturday afternoon during the Vernon Hills boys swimming and diving sectional meet.

Schober qualified to the state meet in the 200 IM, where he narrowly missed beating one of the area's best in Stevenson's Daniel Ng. Ng clocked in at 1:56.95, while Schober was right behind with a personal best time of 1:57.03 as both earned trips to New Trier for Friday's state meet prelims.

"That was a good swim. He (Ng) is a great competitor and great guy," said Schober, who swims club for and was quick to credit his coaches from NASA Wildcat Aquatics. "But this is very different because in club, I have the teammates. It wasn't too bad though. I know a lot of the competitors here, so it made me feel more comfortable."

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And like last year, Schober approached his athletic director wanting to compete in sectionals. Colin Plach, who teaches in the engineering department and spearheads Project Lead The Way, happily accepted the assignment this season.

"I've been at Grayslake Central for six years and to my knowledge it's the second time we've had a male swimmer qualify for state," he said. "I happily volunteered. It's kind of fun being the unknown school. Charles is a great competitor and had a great showing today. We're really excited for him."

Schober also just missed qualifying in the 100 breaststroke. He finished fourth with a time of 1:00.63, as the qualifying mark was 1 minute flat.

Meanwhile, Ng and Stevenson continued their surge to New Trier, winning the sectional with 308 points.

In addition to the 200 IM, Ng had a nice afternoon in qualifying on two Pats relays.

He first swam the opening leg of the second-place 200-medley relay, where he joined Joseph Song, Nick Baginski and Topher Stensby to swim a 1:36.62.


Ng then swam anchor on the 200 free relay, and his split time of 21.41 helped Stensby, Jacob Rosenkranz and Andrew Shashin win in 1:26.22.

To cap off the afternoon, the Pats' 400 freestyle relay also finished first and will head to state after Baginski, Shashin, Ng and Stensby finished in 3:09.23.

Speaking of Baginski, the junior also qualified in two individual events. He won the 100 butterfly and followed up with a second-place effort in the 50 freestyle (21.43).

"Obviously the higher we finish, the happier we are," said Baginski, who's making his third trip to state. "We've been really motivated to do well because coach has been seeing similarities in this team and in the two teams that finished runner-up in state the mid-2000's. We're just really happy, especially with the relays."

Stensby also earned individual trips to state after winning the 50 (21.11) and 100 freestyle (47.26).

School record-holder Matt Krames won a sectional title in the 1-meter diving after amassing 488.15 points.

Sticking with diving, Libertyville's Jacob Reichert finished second to Krames with 405.60, while others looking for at-large state berths include Vernon Hills' Gene Palazkou (403.40), Warren's Nicholas Hoppe (398.55) and Zack Bongratz (355.90), Mundelein's Kyle Ehemann (364.30) and Libertyville's Noah Sachs (346.75).

Aside from the diving hopefuls, Libertyville will have strong representation as well.

The Cats' 200 medley relay picked up a sectional title after winning the first event of the meet when the quartet of Richie Rush, Billy Bennett, Nick Harrington, and Sean Coughlin went 1:35.97.

"That was so important for us to get off to a good start. I made things that much more exciting for the rest of the meet" said Bennett, a junior looking forward to his first trip to state. "Halfway through the season, we just started getting into a groove and have just wanted to swim faster and faster every time. It's been amazing. We've worked really hard for the chance to represent at state."

Bennett used the early inspiration to also earn an individual berth when he later won the 100 breaststroke in a personal best 58.61.

Libertyville's freestyle relays also earned state berths after both finished second.

The 200 team of Bennett, Eric Turner, Harrington, and Coughlin swam a 1:26.90, while the 400 freestyle quartet of Rush, Coughlin, Austin Stevenson, and Turner finished in 3:12.27.

Stevenson's Nathan Gates also qualified individually after finishing second in the 500 freestyle (4:42.75).

Host Vernon Hills will have two state representatives in senior Jeffrey Zhang and junior Calvin Yoon.

Yoon first qualified in the 50 freestyle, where he finished third after swimming a personal-best 21.84.

"I was kind of dazed the first 25 yards but then I picked it up," said Yoon, who qualified for state in the medley relay a year ago but never individually. "It feels really good. This is something I've wanted (to make it to state). I'm just trying to swim as fast as I can."

Yoon then swam a personal-best 58.19 in taking second in the 100 breaststroke.

Meanwhile, Zhang qualified by finishing second in the 100 backstroke (52.88).

Stevenson coach Doug Lillydahl was awarded sectional coach of the year honors.

"We know all of our pieces are there, and we qualified our core team," said Lillydahl, whose troops were unranked prior to the season but have vaulted up to fifth since. "Our guys swimming fast helps give us vision, and we're starting to prove it. We just want to challenge next week."

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