Boys swimmers grateful for Lake County meet, excited to compete
The Lake County boys swimming invitational will be contested Saturday at Stevenson.
And the general consensus of the participants is a feeling of gratitude that the prestigious meet is being held at all.
High school sports is proceeding in a new way this season as IHSA guidelines have been eased, resulting in an abbreviated swim campaign -- and according to Patriots junior Josh Song, competing in an invite such as this is something local athletes should no longer assume will be the norm.
"This is something you can't take for granted," said Song. "We haven't had a meet like this in awhile, and it's going to be a great experience. We don't normally get to compete against teams such as Barrington, Highland Park, and Vernon Hills, and we'll be looking to see (how we stack up) against such great competition."
Deerfield, Lake Forest, Libertyville, Mundelein and Warren will be in Lincolnshire Saturday in addition to the Cougars, Giants, Pats and Broncos.
"Our swim and dive season at Barrington has been challenging," said Barrington coach John Valentine. "Limited access to pool time, a reduced number of athletes, and fewer dual meets/invites like Lake County make it tougher for our kids to achieve success."
Barrington is led this year by senior Dan Langlois, who will be attending Fordham University in the fall.
Langlois excelled last season as a junior. He won the 500-yard freestyle title at the Mid-Suburban League conference meet in the time of 4:52.99, then made a clutch contribution to the 10th-place finish of the Broncos' 200 medley relay team at the state finals in Evanston.
"Dan is an honors student at BHS," said Valentine, "and this season he has already gone :59 in the breaststroke and 1:57 in the 200 IM, along with contributing in the 200 medley and 200 free relay."
Song, White strong again:
Song of Stevenson was also a major factor at the state finals last year. He paced the Patriots' fifth-place finish in the 200 medley relay and was eighth overall in the 100 butterfly, in the time of 49.96.
This year, though, due to restrictions, there will not be a state series for boys swimming.
"It's sad, and frustrating," said Song of the lack of a final state tourney this year, "but you've just got to do what you have to work with. We're just grateful and happy to have a season in general, and we're hoping for one (a state finals) next year."
"Last season (at Evanston) was really cool, and fun," added Song. "Being an underclassman, it was a new experience and very memorable, even to be a spectator or fan. It was the first time I've been in front of that much of a crowd and (had to face) that much pressure, and it's something I'll never forget."
Now this year, Song says his goal will be to "cut times," but also "as a whole, be a good influence on my teammates, be a leader, try to make everyone around me better and be a good person."
Song's classmate Jack White, a diver, also stood out at state in 2020. White took home the sixth-place medal in the diving competition, earning the second-best score of any sophomore in the finals.
The junior said that he was ecstatic when he learned that the 2021 season was on.
"We kept optimistic," said White, "but to be honest we were a little surprised when the season resumed. (When we found out) there was a Zoom meeting with the athletic department, and we were back in the pool the following day."
White added that he also is a bit downcast that there will not be a state series.
"It's nice to have that season ending meet to compete against the best divers," said White. "Now we are setting different goals."
"I'm really excited though about this upcoming (Lake County) invite," added White. "It'll be a good event and very competitive, and I'm glad to see that Deerfield will be there -- they have an awesome diver, Zayne (Danielwicz), who I believe was fourth in state last year."
Patriots coach Doug Lillydahl said about the invite that "the normal set of events will occur since the IHSA/IDPH have reinstated relays," and added that "the Stevenson TV club will be broadcasting the meet and they do a really nice job."
As far as an update on the Stevenson team, Lillydahl said that "Josh Song and Jack White have both put in good work and are helping to lead a talented young team toward its future. We had a dual meet with Glenbrook South two weeks ago and the meet came down to the final relay before we fell 94-92. They're a returning third-place finisher at state so we took inspiration from that clash.
"This weekend will also be our first look at the strong Mundelein team. They have several returning state qualifiers and some young hopefuls, and Barrington and Highland Park have been strong teams as well the last few years. All of the teams have their specialties and their stars, that's why an invite is so exciting, this season especially. It brings together the best of the best and lets our kids challenge themselves to compete."
Other teams at the meet:
VERNON HILLS -- "This is the most talented group of varsity swimmers and divers in our school's history," said coach Jim Pardon. "Our goal this year is to have at least two Lake County champions, relays or individuals, and to place as many guys in the top 6 as possible." The Cougars are led by former state diving qualifier Kevin Schumacher and senior David Utsis, who was top six at sectionals last year in the 100 back and 100 free. "Our team's varsity motto this season is 'Take Nothing for Granted'," said Pardon. "They know that every race they swim could possibly be their last of the season, and that's the way the team has performed."
MUNDELEIN -- "Our season has been going good so far," said coach Rahul Sethna. "We're 4-0 in the (North Suburban) conference, and it's been quick with two competitions a week trying to get in a season given the constraints of a seven week season. We are just happy to be in the water and be able to compete." The Mustangs are paced by 2020 state qualifiers Michael Romero (Jr) and Omar Fathallah (Jr). "We just wish we were able to have a little longer of a season," added Sethna, "and have a chance to defend our Sectional title."
WARREN -- "Our kids realize that they have to roll with the waves," said coach Chris Bertana, whose team is 2-1 in the NSC. "The boys are working hard, they realize the season is short and between worries of COVID and school being shut down by weather, they have had to do extra work outside the pool to stay in shape." Seniors on the Warren squad include Dante Rinaldi, the team captain (signed with Augustana), Alex Caruthers, Jonah Park and Ethan Harrigan.