Hats off to high-achieving Stevenson

  • Stevenson High School's Topher Stensby reacts to his heat-winning time in the 100-yard freestyle in the boys swimming state meet preliminaries Friday at New Trier High School in Winnetka.

    Stevenson High School's Topher Stensby reacts to his heat-winning time in the 100-yard freestyle in the boys swimming state meet preliminaries Friday at New Trier High School in Winnetka. John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • Stevenson's Topher Stensby competes in the 100-yard freestyle in the boys swimming state meet preliminaries Friday at New Trier High School in Winnetka.

    Stevenson's Topher Stensby competes in the 100-yard freestyle in the boys swimming state meet preliminaries Friday at New Trier High School in Winnetka. John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • Nathan Gates of Stevenson competes in the 500-yard freestyle in the boys swimming state meet preliminaries Friday at New Trier High School in Winnetka.

    Nathan Gates of Stevenson competes in the 500-yard freestyle in the boys swimming state meet preliminaries Friday at New Trier High School in Winnetka. John Starks | Staff Photographer

 
By John Phelps
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 2/24/2017 11:17 PM

We've all heard the saying, "Just win, baby!"

In swimming, it's simply, "Just swim, baby!"

 

That was the rallying cry Friday, as swimmers competed in the state meet at New Trier, hoping to finish in the top 12 to secure a spot in Saturday's finals, which begin at noon.

Stevenson is no stranger to the state meet, and the Patriots' experience showed Friday. The North Suburban Conference and sectional champs have been surging since Day 1, when they were unranked. They head into Saturday in fifth place.

Stevenson's relays and sophomore Topher Stensby had a lot to do with the Patriots' terrific showing in the prelims.

"This is fantastic," Stensby said. "I am even surprising myself. We didn't have this high of expectations for this weekend. There's always room for improvement, but you can't beat the atmosphere in here. It's incredible with so many people, and having your teammates here gets you pumped."

Stensby led off the 200-yard freestyle relay that made a huge jump. Seeded 12th, the Patriots dropped almost three seconds. Stensby, Jacob Rosenkranz, Andrew Shashin and Daniel Ng swam the fourth-fastest time (1:23.96) to earn a spot in the championship heat.

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The Patriots' day concluded in grand fashion when Nick Baginski, Shashin, Ng and anchor Stensby swam 3:04.01 in the 400 freestyle relay. They vaulted up to second after being seeded sixth.

"We needed the relays to get us up there in the team standings, and we're really proud of that," Stevenson coach Doug Lillydahl said.

Stevenson's 200 freestyle relay of Stensby, Rosenkranz, Shashin and Ng finished fourth (1:23.96).

"We've been really working on our starts during practice and how we transition into the water," said Ng, a two-time state qualifier who swam a school-record split time of 20.95 in the 200 free relay. "It was really loud in the pool. You just had to ignore it, focus and try to swim your best."

Stensby did some damage in his individual events as well, as he wound up fourth in the 50 freestyle (20.64). Baginski made the consolation finals of the 50 freestyle (10th, 21.02). Stensby will be eyeing a state title in the 100 freestyle after taking second with a swim of 45.01.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Baginski also made it to the consolation finals in the 100 butterfly, finishing 10th (50.57).

NSC and sectional diving champion Matt Krames will compete Saturday as well. He was seeded 13th but moved up to seventh, accumulating 338.25 points.

Stevenson's Nathan Gates narrowly missed making the consolation finals of the 500 freestyle. the sophomore wound up 15th after swimming a 4:38.70, but his performance made an impact.

"The guts Nathan showed was a big super and very inspiring to the entire team," Lillydahl said. "That's what we're looking for and what we're after."

Libertyville junior and 100 breaststroke sectional champ Billy Bennett missed the consolation finals after taking 13th with his time of 58.03. The twelfth-place time was 57.92.

Nick Hoppe, Warren's first diver to advance to state since Sage Stephens in 2011, soared from 36th to 18th place, as he amassed 203.20 points.

Vernon Hills' highlights included Jeffrey Zhang moving up nine place sto 21st in the 100 backstroke, Gene Palazkou placing 26th in diving, and Calvin Yoon advancing four spots to finish 38th in 50 freestyle.

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