Boys swimming: Can anyone catch Barrington at MSL meet?
The road to the Mid-Suburban League boys swimming championship runs through Barrington this season.
MSL squads will descend upon Buffalo Grove Saturday (diving 9 a.m., swimming 1 p.m.) with the Broncos a favorite to take the league title.
Barrington won the MSL West and went 7-0 in league duals.
"Our team is well-balanced for success in relays and individual events at the end-of-season meets," said Barrington coach John Valentine.
Valentine said defending MSL champion Fremd cannot be discounted. "Fremd always swims fast at conference," he said. "Our team swims fast at sectionals and state. Our outlook remains very optimistic for the balance of the season and years to come."
Barrington has received bumps this year from 50-yard freestyle sprinters Sam Burrell and Steven Fischer, distance swimmers Jack Hoppe and Daniel Langlois, along with breaststroke and IMers Hoppe and Aidan Roth.
And then there is freshman Griffin O'Leary in the backstroke and fly. "Griffin O'Leary is our fastest swimmer, season MVP and pushes others to work harder in practice," said Valentine, who noted Hoppe wins the toughest athlete award for "always working hard even when injured."
Valentine said relays have been a key focus for the Broncos. "The team has worked hard on improving the 400 relay," he explained. "The goal is to qualify three relays for the state meet."
Fremd went 6-1 in conference duals. "We are pleased with how our boys are looking for championship season," coach Andrew Kittrell noted. "We hope to give Barrington a run for its money at conference, but they are very tough to catch."
Kittrell said the longer-term outlook for the Vikings is to get relays to state, along with Yoochan Lee in the 100 free and breaststroke, Paul Ponte in the backstroke, Alex Reed in the 50, Evans Stegall in the fly and backstroke and Brennen Barrett in diving.
Hersey won the MSL East for the second year in a row, finishing 7-1 overall and 5-0 in East duals.
A name to keep an eye on is diver Nick Nocita, who has broken six of 11 Hersey dive school records numerous times over the year. "He has not been beaten this year and qualified for state last year," said Hersey coach Dick Mortensen. "He has exceeded all expectations so far. He seems to break a school record each week."
Additionally, Gavin Hill has not been beaten in the 50 or 500 and Mortensen noted there is great anticipation in how Hill will perform during championship season.
Mortensen also has high hopes for the team's free relays that include Hill, Jack Blumenfeld, Misha Njkaforav and Ethan Parunde. "Our free relays should have a legit shot to qualify as well," he said. "Misha has been a major contributor as a second 100-freestyle and is a key member of our free relays. He is an outstanding water-polo player and now is coming into his own in the swimming lanes."
Mortensen labels Spencer Burkhalter, another contributor, as a workhorse. "I wouldn't bet against this kid at sectionals," he said. "He relishes the big meets."
Mortensen added the Huskies came into the season with plenty to prove. "Last year we were thought of as a one-man team with Michael Petro (state medalist now at LSU)," he said. "The kids wanted to prove to everyone this was not the case. I think we surprised a lot of people with our swimming depth and diving. We hope to finish in the top quarter at the MSL championship. Sectional-wise, it is about getting as many kids to qualify as possible. We want to have a good day on Friday at state."
Freshman Noah Thomas, who competes in the athletes with disabilities division for Hersey, already has met the qualifying standards in four events. "He should medal at state," said Mortensen.
Prospect went 5-2 in conference and coach Alfonso Lopez is looking for the Knights to finish in the top 5 at the MSL meet, "with as many top 6 finishes in individual events and relays as possible, as well as top 12 finishes for points," he said.
Lopez said the team's best bets for state are Tim Hays (backstroke and IM), Kevin Soltys (backstroke and fly), Jack Epperson (diving) and the team's 200 medley relay.
"Depending on how we perform at the conference meet, there may be more," said Lopez. "As for the state meet we have to get there first and then we'll see where we are among the best in the state. Our goal is to bring multiple individuals down to state and possibly a relay."
Of note, Hays, a freshman, broke a 36-year-old record in the IM at the beginning of the season. Hayes and Soltys, a sophomore, are in the top 6 in the MSL in the backstroke and are just off the state cut. "Tim already has posted the state cut in the IM (1:57.66)," said Lopez. "Tim has been our fastest all-around swimmer in every event. His flexibility in being able to compete in any event and do well has inspired the team to take a similar approach."
Senior captain Justin Fugiel has helped in the sprints, while freshmen Andrew Tonkovic, Ben Zwolenik and Ian McGough have been varsity contributors, along with junior Aidan Rodriguez. "Justin has filled a void in our sprints with an unselfish attitude and a determination to do whatever the team needs," said Lopez.
Coach Katie Mroz, whose Palatine Pirates went 5-3 in conference duals, has high hopes for junior Christian Snyder (sprint freestyle, fly) and senior Noah Chon (freestyle and breaststroke). "Christian has been on fire and Noah has the will to win and is a great closer in any race. He is a leader in and out of the pool."
Palatine's medley relay with Sam Adame, Henry Gabriel, Snyder and Chon, as well as its 400 relay with Adame, Snyder, Chon and Stefan Filip also have Mroz optimistic. "We think of conference as a dress-rehearsal for sectionals," she said. "The plan is to race anyone across the pool and then make the necessary improvements before sectionals."
Snyder recent PR'd in the 100 (50.36) and Adame in the breaststroke (1:07). Freshman Max Adame has dropped significant time in the 500.
Conant finished 4-3 in conference duals and is led by seniors Bryan Cho, Jake Lydon, Alex Hirjoi, Christian Snopek, Mikey Bland and juniors Dylan Pokorny and Spencer Urban. "These guys have done a great job this year of bringing their daily training to the next level," coach Brian Drenth said. "They should see some great time drops the next couple weeks. We are looking forward to some high individual finishes at conference and at the sectional meet."
Drenth said seniors Justin Lim (50, fly) and divers Caleb Savoy and Kyle Jones are looking for returns to the state meet. Lim is looking to join Urban, Pokorny and Snopek in the 200 medley relay that is aiming for the state cut.
Wheeling (0-5 conference) is led by top team point-scorer Mason Hergert. Sophomore Leo Monaxios has been a workhorse all year for the Wildcats, noted coach Tod Schwager. The coach is hopeful Hergert can break a school record in the next couple weeks.
"We look to further improve on our previous drops to finish the season with more PRs," Schwager said.
Hoffman Estates coach Jenny Huffman said the Hawks have been focusing on being competitive to the end of the meet and using every opportunity to race.
"We have a young squad this year that is eager to gain some valuable experience competing at conference and sectionals," she said
Junior EJ Merza and sophomore Richard Le have stepped up for the Hawks, scoring points in a wide variety of events during the season. Huffman said best bets for top 6 league finishes are senior Dylan Kozlick in the breaststroke and the medley and 200 free relays led by junior Neil Polzin.
Elk Grove's Adrian Wlodarz will be a key factor in the 100 and breaststroke events. Coach Keith Kura noted Wlodarz and Christian Tchilikov have been top-notch in the leadership department.
"They have done a wonderful job of becoming leaders of the team after two of our senior captains graduated," Kura said.
Kura has seen his team up its game from a competitive standpoint this season. "The guys have improved at competing," he said. "They are learning each week how to get in the water and race, no matter what the circumstance is. I'm looking for the guys to finish the season strong with best times at the sectional meet."
Buffalo Grove (4-3, 3-2 East) is led by captains Daniel Verdico, Andy Gontko and Ben Goldberg. "They each have been great leaders throughout the entire season and positively encourage others to give it their all during practices," said Buffalo Grove coach Tom Cooney.
Verdico is hoping to return to state in the 500 and is looking to qualify in the 200 as well. Goldberg is hopeful for another state diving berth and to improve on his finish for last year. Gontko is close to the state cut in the 50. Cooney also is high on the Bison's 200 and 400 relays. "I believe our 200 and 400 relays to be top notch," said Cooney.
Those relays include Verdico, Gontko, Alex Santiago and Tommy Tsiftilis. "I am excited to see what those relays can do at sectionals and we're hoping to break some school records as well," said Cooney. "I think our team has improved on our endurance and finishes during races. We have spent a lot of time trying to build endurance so we don't fall apart at the end of the race. We do this by adding resistance in practice and to build power in our pull and kick."
Rolling Meadows coach Monika Chiappetta is thrilled with the progress Jacob Hardt, Sam Keeley, Vlad Molin and Lukas Slifierz have made. "They have really stepped up this year, not just in their times and work, but in leadership, too," she said.
The Mustangs (3-4 in conference duals) are focused on the continued lowering of times the rest of the way. "My ultimate goal is to end with best times," said Chiappetta. "They have worked hard to make that happen and the future for these kids looks awesome. We are looking forward to swimming at conference and sectionals, and swimming against some great competition. They always step up here at the end."
Schaumburg coach Tim O'Grady said his team is looking for fast postseason swims despite difficulties in practice due to the recent bad winter weather. "We have a young crew that is eager to get some experience at big varsity invites," he said.