Fremd takes comfort in fine finish
Fremd's boys swimming team, fittingly, saved its best for last in Saturday's state finals at New Trier.
The Vikings' Nick Nevins, Danny Konishi, Nick Seroni and Arnas Maciunas finished 10th in the meet-ending 400-yard freestyle relay.
In this case, it wasn't so much the place as the time that was significant.
Their clocking of 3:09.12 was a season-best and allowed a senior-dominated team to complete its high school journey with the knowledge that the best work came at the very end.
"There just aren't many swimmers who get to say that there last race was their best, or their fastest," said Fremd coach Kristen Newby.
Earlier, the Vikes medley relay of Tony Lee, Alex Schillinger, Seroni and Nevins placed 12th. In the 50 free, Nevins jumped up from his 12th-place seed to finish ninth in 21.14. And Schillinger improved on his position in the 100 breaststroke, moving up to 10th place.
While Schillinger, a junior, figures to return next season, he said he was privileged to have had this year's state-meet seniors -- Nevins, Seroni, Maciunas, Lee -- as teammates.
"To me, it always comes back to the team," Schillinger said. "None of this happens without them."
He specified Maciunas as the one individual who'd had the biggest effect on him.
"I think I identify with Arnas the most easily," Schillinger explained. "We're kind of the same in certain ways -- a little bit of class clown in both of us, I think. But then to see the growth in him as a leader this year, that was really something."
The Mid-Suburban League champs finished 24th, with 15 points. Much more difficult to measure is the effect they had on one another, and those closest to them.
"As coaches, this is what we do," said Newby. "You have a new group each year, and every year is different. But to have a group of kids like this -- so tightly knit, so bonded to one another -- that was really special."
• It was a special finish to the season for Rolling Meadows junior Josh Dellorto as well.
He placed 12th in the 100 free in 47.58, marking his first point-scoring experience in the state meet.
"I'm so proud that even with the high level of expectation and competition here, he was the most relaxed I've seen him all year -- his whole career, actually," said Rolling Meadows coach Monika Chiappetta. "I'm most impressed that he showed up with one idea in mind, and that was just to race."
Immediately after his Saturday race, Dellorto had no trouble setting a goal for himself -- looking far ahead, to a year from now.
"Top six," he said. "Why not?"
• Elk Grove junior Jack Falejczyk made the most of his most recent state voyage as well.
Though he'd already been to the state meet twice, this trip was special because it demonstrated the progress he has made.
Falejczyk is sightless. During races, assistant coaches Jason Spjuth and Dave Toler tap him on shoulders with a foam pad affixed to a long rod as he is nearing the wall for his flip turns.
The new part for Falejczyk is how well he's fitting in with Elk Grove's overall team. He practiced this year in a very conventional mode, with other Grens swimmers sharing a lane with him. In that setting, sprinklers signalled that he was nearing the wall.
Still, the end of the season posed some challenges -- mainly that Falejczyk, whose qualification to state would be straightforward, needed to keep swimming hard while the rest of the team was tapering for the sectional meet.
"It really was difficult, just because he was pretty much by himself for a while," said Spjuth, who directly supervised those workouts. "And he was still working hard through all of that in hopes of getting some good times here at state."
That part certainly happened. Falejczyk had lifetime bests in all four of his races in the athletes with disabilities division -- the 200 free (2:25.97), the 50 free (31.05), the 100 free (1:08.12) and the 100 breaststroke (1:26.17).
He said he was pleased with his times, and is looking forward to future efforts from a viewpoint that would be familiar to any swimmer.
"More best times," he said of his long-term goal. "That's what this is all about, right?"
• For Palatine senior Alex Bartosik, the final of his four state meets ended with a medallion. He placed 11th in the 200 IM, moving up by one place from his seed.
Bartosik leaves as Palatine's team record-holder in the 200 IM, and he's left quite an impression on coach John Schauble.
"He's one of the hardest workers I've ever coached," said Schauble, "and an absolutely fierce big-meet competitor. He reminds me of something one of my old coaches used say -- 'It's not the size of the dog in the fight; it's the size of the fight in the dog.' "
Bartosik is looking forward to a future studying information management systems and perhaps finance at Tampa. That same future, unavoidably, will include swimming.
"If I wasn't swimming, I don't know what I'd do," said Bartosik. "It's just a way of life for me."