Boys swimming and diving: Barrington's O'Leary, Hersey's Thomas shine at state
Taking second place at the boys state swimming finals two seasons in a row is an amazing accomplishment.
That's what Barrington's Griffin O'Leary did Saturday at the state meet in Evanston, but the sophomore was also agonizingly close to winning a state championship.
O'Leary posted a second-place finish in the 100-yard backstroke for the second straight year, just missing out on a state title as his outstanding time of 49.43 was just heartbreakingly short of the winning mark of Jaden Olson of Chicago Jones, who won with a 49.29.
"Kind of crazy there at the end," said O'Leary. "I saw Jaden and Calvin (Windle, from St. Charles East, who placed third) were going fast so I just had to stay with them. I tried to beat them on the back end but (Jaden) just out-touched me.
'I was really happy with our team performance here," added O'Leary. "We're all really excited for next year."
Hersey sophomore Noah Thomas won four events in class A of the Athletes with Disabilities division.
After posting some outstanding seed times prior to the meet, Thomas swam Saturday and became champion in the 50 free, 100 free, 200 free and the 100-yard breaststroke.
And, according to Huskies coach Dick Mortensen, Thomas is the first Hersey swimmer or diver to earn a state title.
"Noah toughed it out today, swimming those four events," said Mortensen. "He's awesome. He's such a competitor and does not like to lose. I feel that he's a great inspiration for our team."
"I know there have been a lot of good swimmers (over the years) at Hersey," said Thomas. "I looked at my times today and I knew what my goals were. I'm still learning, but it's been a lot of fun. I'm looking forward to the next two years."
O'Leary also produced a fourth-place finish in the 100 butterfly at 49.40, while Stevenson's 200 medley relay team took fifth in the time of 1:33.38 (swimmers AJ Carollo, Jack Zhang, Josh Song and Jake Kim.)
"Overall, our team swam really well here," said Zhang, a senior. "All of us have grown as swimmers, athletes, and teammates, and now I'm excited to see what the young kids will be able to do."
Ray Ure of Maine West, in his senior campaign, culminated his career by finishing ninth in the 1-meter dive.
"I still remember when Ray come out the second week of his freshman year just to give diving a try," said Warriors coach Mike Tuntland, "and here we are four years later at the finals. He's just a great athlete, a multisport athlete, and he's a determined kid. He always prevails and is very positive.
"He plays handball, which is his passion," added Tuntland, "and that's what he'll focus on in college. But he's also run track and cross-country and played baseball. With his discipline, Ray could play any sport he wanted to. It's been a whirlwind of fun coaching him. He's a mature young man and is going to be very successful."