Boys swimming: Stensby critical in Stevenson's fifth-place finish

  • Stevenson junior Topher Stensby pumps his fist after winning the 50-yard freestyle during the boys swimming state finals at Evanston Township High School on Saturday.

      Stevenson junior Topher Stensby pumps his fist after winning the 50-yard freestyle during the boys swimming state finals at Evanston Township High School on Saturday. Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

  • Stevenson's Topher Stensby accepts his medal after winning the 50-yard freestyle during the boys swimming state finals at Evanston Township High School on Saturday.

      Stevenson's Topher Stensby accepts his medal after winning the 50-yard freestyle during the boys swimming state finals at Evanston Township High School on Saturday. Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

  • Stevenson's Topher Stensby pumps his fist after winning the 100-yard freestyle, his second victory of the day during the boys swimming state finals at Evanston Township High School on Saturday.

      Stevenson's Topher Stensby pumps his fist after winning the 100-yard freestyle, his second victory of the day during the boys swimming state finals at Evanston Township High School on Saturday. Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

  • Stevenson fans vocalize their support during the boys swimming state finals at Evanston Township High School on Saturday.

      Stevenson fans vocalize their support during the boys swimming state finals at Evanston Township High School on Saturday. Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

  • Swimmers leave the block in the 50-yard freestyle during the boys swimming state finals at Evanston Township High School on Saturday.

      Swimmers leave the block in the 50-yard freestyle during the boys swimming state finals at Evanston Township High School on Saturday. Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

 
By John Phelps
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 2/24/2018 7:10 PM

Many times, we are our own worst critics.

And even after putting on a show in the boys swimming and diving state finals at Evanston Township High School over the weekend, Stevenson junior Topher Stensby knows there's always improvements to made and work to be done.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Regardless of the times, however, it still doesn't erase the fact that this guy just won two state titles.

"Last year I was the underdog, and this year I was the favorite," Stensby said after touching in 20.18 to better Hinsdale Central's Cole Grosshans (20.81) and cap off his second straight state crown in the 50-yard freestyle, a race that featured five times in the 20-second range.

"I wasn't really happy with the time but it's awesome to win again. Even though I was the favorite, I still think there's more fun in chasing instead of being chased. But whatever the case, you just have to embrace it and keep proving to yourself that you can do better."

Stensby again embraced the role of the hunted when he put an exclamation point on his second title of the day -- and third in his career -- after touching first (44.57) in the 100 freestyle.

"It was great winning another title, but honestly, I always want to do well in the relays and win medals with and for the team," he said. "So we were a little disappointed in our relays. We had high expectations and wanted to finish higher."

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Those relays Stensby refers to still did fairly well despite a couple of speed bumps along the way.

The 200-medley just missed Saturday's finals after finishing 13th in prelims.

But the Pats atoned by sending both the 200 and 400 freestyle relays to the finals.

The top-seeded 200 freestyle relay of junior Joseph Song and Stensby, sophomore Nick Comini and senior Daniel Ng touched third (1:24.03) in the championship heat.

"It's really bittersweet," said Ng, a four-time state qualifier. "It's been a great experience, and I love the competition in this atmosphere. Having the entire roster qualify for state and being a part of a large team is what I'll remember the most about the experience."

In the last event of the meet, the 400 freestyle relay, the third-seeded team of Ng, Comini, sophomore Jack Zhang and Stensby grabbed a fourth-place medal after touching in 3:06.08.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"We had a good shot and have been working really hard," said Comini after collecting a pair of medals in his first trip to state. "We know we have the potential. And I know I have things to work on. But it's a learning experience and nice to get a taste of what the state meet is all about."

Stevenson was firmly in the top 10 in the team projections heading into Saturday.

With Stensby and the relays doing their thing, the Pats collected enough points to finish fifth with 78 points.

Pats coach Doug Lillydahl put the meet into perspective.

"We've had our ups and downs and some tough luck yesterday in prelims," he said. "But Topher put on a show for us, and our relays were right in the mix and took care of business."

New Trier won that 400 relay to help solidify its unprecedented 24th state team title. The Trevians finished with 161 points, with Lyons at 150.5 and Hinsdale Central third at 116.5.

No state records were broken on Saturday, but the meet featured three individuals winning two events apiece.

New Trier senior Charlie Scheinfeld took top honors in both the 200 IM (1:49.42) and 100 breaststroke (53.72). Peoria Notre Dame senior Colton Paulson was tops in the 200 free (1:36.65) and the 500 free (4:22.53), and Stevenson junior Topher Stensby won the 50 free (20.18) and 100 free (44.57). Lyons senior Spencer Walker won the 100 back (48.11).

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