Boys swimming: Cool efforts from Stensby, Stevenson relays
The demeanor was relaxed and as cool as the other side of the pillow, as the Stevenson boys swimming and diving team had been through this before.
After finishing fourth last year, the Patriots were hungry and eager for similar -- if not even better -- results in the high school boys swimming and diving finals at Evanston Township High School this weekend.
Relays have been a staple for the Pats, but Friday's prelims didn't get off to the start Stevenson wanted when the 200 medley of juniors Joseph Song and Beno Maya and sophomores A.J. Carollo and Nick Comini just missed qualifying to Saturday's finals. They finished in 1:35.19 to finish 13th, and only the top 12 earn Saturday swims.
"We had high hopes in that relay, but overall as a team we're in really good shape for tomorrow," said Comini, who swam anchor and is making his first trip to state. "Even after a disappointing event, we cheer each other on and hype each other up and that's motivation right there to do your best, especially for the team."
The reigning conference and sectional champs still have plenty of firepower -- mainly with the reigning 50 freestyle state champ, junior Topher Stensby.
Seeded second, Stensby broke a pool record with a lifetime best of 20.00 in the 50. That's was the top performance of the day in that race, and a time good for All-American honors.
"I was a little late on my breakout off the start and need to clean that up a bit," he said. "But coming home felt good."
Then, after being seeded sixth in the 100 free, Stensby glided into Saturday's finals with another pole-position effort, in a personal-best 44.10. And yes, another All-American standard.
"We swim for each other and are always hungry to do better," Stensby said.
Later in the evening, the junior swam the second leg of the 200 freestyle relay, pairing with Song, Comini and Daniel Ng to produce the top qualifying time of 1:24.01.
"We were really happy with our relays overall," said Maya. "We're ready for tomorrow. You have to put the disappointing events behind you and think of the betterment of the team. We look out for each other."
More good news came from the 400 freestyle relay, where the quartet of Ng, Comini, sophomore Jack Zhang and Stensby finished third in prelims after touching in 3:04.98.
Ng also just missed qualifying for the finals individually after finishing 13th in the 200 free (1:41.84) and 15th in the 100 freestyle (47.04).
Junior Nathan Gates, sectional champ in the 500 freestyle, went into that event seeded fourth but wound up 18th in 4:41.86.
Warren junior Brian Tabourot finished fourth in his heat in the 100 backstroke with a personal best 52.80, but missed Saturday's after finishing 27th overall.
"My body was just dead that week after conference but I'm feeling much better now," said Tabourot, who was sidelined with illness and missed conference a couple of weeks ago but rebounded to win a sectional title last weekend. "I was just hoping to make the cut for tomorrow, but this is a cool experience. The atmosphere is amazing."
Senior Billy Bennett was the highest finisher for Libertyville. He just missed the finals after finishing 16th overall (57.99). Bennett was also on the 200 free relay that finished 18th in prelims. He joined seniors Austin Stevenson, Nathan Valley, and Sean Coughlin to touch in 1:26.82.
Vernon Hills senior Calvin Yoon capped off a terrific high school career after qualifying for state in the 100 butterfly. He finished 28th in prelims after touching in 51.86. Yoon was also raced in the 100 breaststroke and finished 43rd.
"He wanted to go out in style," said Cougars coach Adam Lueken, whose program returns a host of experienced swimmers for next year. "We also had our diver (senior Kevin Diaz) with a personal best by 25 points."
Senior Kyle Ehemann joined Maggie Franz to make it the first time Mundelein qualified divers to state from both teams.
Other swimmers representing well but missing Saturday's finals included Carmel Catholic junior and 200 IM sectional champion Kyle Falkstrom, and Grayslake Central junior Charles Schober in the the same event.