Boys swimming and diving: Hersey's Nocita, Barrington's O'Leary head to finals
The IHSA state boys swimming and diving meet is the perfect environment for racing. From the electric atmosphere to the thunderous applause from athletes and spectators alike, the state meet is the high point of the season for many athletes as they try to post best times and break age-old state records.
The Mid-Suburban League had one of its best showing in years, with many athletes from across the conference represented.
Friday morning's diving session saw Hersey's Nick Nocita place 11th in prelims with a score of 324.55 to reach Saturday's final round. Just outside the bubble of finals was Buffalo Grove's Ben Goldberg, who placed 16th with a score of 293.10.
Currently in the lead for Saturday's diving session is Downers Grove North's Kevin Sullivan, who finished his preliminaries with a score of 376.90.
Barrington's state team looked strong in the water and worked hard to race within its prelim heats. Freshman Griffin O'Leary saw major success in his individual events, while teammates Jack Hoppe, Sam Burrell, and Steven Fischer contributed to the success of the Broncos' relays.
The Broncos started things off strong with their 200-yard medley relay team of O'Leary, Hoppe, Burrell, and Fischer which placed 12th with a time of 1:34.39 to qualify for Saturday's consolation finals.
O'Leary also had a stellar 100-yard backstroke performance, swimming a time of 49.56 and placing second overall in the preliminaries.
Hoppe swam the 200 free in an impressive time of 1:44.69 and completed the breaststroke in a 58.25, earning him 14th overall, while teammate Burrell placed 36th the 100 free (48.32).
Hersey had great success on the boards and in the pool, with Nocita making it to finals in diving, while teammate Gavin Hill finished 25th in the 50 free (21.58) and 19th in the 100 free (47.23).
Conant's Justin Lim finished 20th overall in the 100-yard butterfly, dropping from his seed time of 52.08 to a much faster 51.54.
Buffalo Grove's Daniel Verdico was a little up on his times but looked strong and had some great swims at his final state performance. Verdico finished his 200-yard free on a 1:45.38 and his 500-yard freestyle in a 4:46.52.
Fremd had a strong 200 medley relay and Evan Stegall had some solid individuals. Stegall swam the 100 fly (52.22) and 100 backstroke (54.21) in impressive times, while the medley relay team of Alex Reed, Yamazaki, Yoochan Lee, and Stegall were around their sectional time and posted a time of 1:37.54.
Prospect brought state newcomers Tim Hays and Kevin Soltys, who were right around their seed times in their state debuts. Hays finished his 200 IM in a time of 1:57.63, while he and teammate Soltys finished their backstrokes in times of 53.19 and 53.83, respectively.
"Today was a new experience for my athletes," said Prospect coach Alfonso Lopez. "The biggest thing is just coming out, staying confident, and competing. These big meets are intimidating, but the swimmers have just got to remember it's all about having fun."
St. Charles North was the first team to send the afternoon session into a wave of excitement, as its 200 medley relay team of Srboljub Filipovic, William Myhre, Nathaniel Baxter, and Charlie Williams claimed the first-place seed in an impressive time of 1:31.58.
Loyola's Luke Maurer claimed the top spot in the 200 free in a 1:36.45.
Max Iiada of Glenbrook South sneaked ahead of the competition in the 200 IM, earning his seeding with the impressive time of 1:49.06.
The 50 free was over in a flash as Stevenson's Topher Stensby blew away the competition. Stensby broke 20 seconds posting an impressive time of 19.93.
The fly proved to be one of the most heated events, as every heat came down to underwaters, touches, and turns. St. Charles North's Myhre placed first in a time of 48.70.
Stensby returned in the 100 free, dropping 2 seconds from his seed time and finishing first in a time of 44.31.
The endurance battles of the 500 free were intense in every heat, with Liam Hutchinson of Fenwick gaining a massive advantage and positioning himself way ahead of the competition. Hutchinson finished his 500 in 4:25.92.
Stevenson had a fantastic showing overall and a shining example was its commanding lead in the 200 free relay. Richard Lee, Joseph Song, Max Ryaguzov, and Stensby all had phenomenal relay splits and earned the top seed with a time of 1:22.88.
Ryan Purdy of Glenbrook North won the backstroke in 48.92 and in the final individual event, the 100 breaststroke, Myhre posted a winning time of 54.46.
Closing the preliminaries was Neuqua Valley's 400 freestyle relay with Patrick Jensen, Jack Hiss, Tanner Schrey, and Boyle, who closed the meet in an impressive time of 3:05.36.