Boys swimming: Neuqua Valley, Waubonsie Valley start strong
Getting to the IHSA boys swimming meet is hard. Advancing from Friday's preliminaries to Saturday's finals is even harder.
But Neuqua Valley and Waubonsie Valley made it look easy Friday at New Trier in the state meet's first day.
Neuqua Valley advanced all three relays to the Saturday's finals, along with five individuals, the most among DuPage County schools. Waubonsie Valley was a shade behind, moving forward all three relays and four individuals.
"Awesome day, awesome day," said Neuqua Valley coach Chad Allen, moments after his 400-yard freestyle relay team won the preliminary race that capped the meet's first day in 3:05.36. Seniors Patrick Jensen, Jack Hiss and Tanner Schrey, along with sophomore Connor Boyle, were the victors. The top 12 finishers in every event advance to Saturday's finals.
"This is probably one of my favorite days here," Allen said. "We have to come back strong tomorrow. We had some awesome swims today."
Boyle was more than solid, finishing third in the 200 freestyle in 1:38.63 and followed that up with an even better race in the 100 freestyle, taking second in 44.66 seconds, just .35 behind winner Topher Stensby from Stevenson, a Notre Dame recruit.
Hiss took seventh in the 200 freestyle in 1:41.00 but was even better in the 500 freestyle, taking second in 4:33.26, just behind Fenwick's Liam Hutchinson at 4:25.92.
"There was a ton of pressure, but we have a really strong team behind us," said Boyle, who also led off the 200 freestyle relay that took fourth in 1:23.51, joining teammates Jensen, senior Matt Townsend and sophomore Jimmy Senese. "I felt really good coming into the meet …"
His voice trailed off, so Hiss finished his thought.
"You're going to see Connor Boyle for a couple more years," he said. "This kid is a star and he's just a sophomore."
Waubonsie Valley could not have had a better day from junior Aayush Deshpande, who cleaned up by taking third in the 200 individual medley and second in the 100 butterfly, just .22 behind St. Charles North's William Myhre. He also raced legs on the 200 medley relay, sixth at 1:34.78, and the 400 freestyle relay, third in 3:06.82. Joining him in the latter relay was senior Brian Daugherty, sophomore Lucas Conrads and senior Jake Darlinger.
"The team did well as a whole," Deshpande said. "We weren't fully rested for sectionals, so I think we really came out and did well and did what we were supposed to, get those top sixs and top 12s."
Their coach, Christopher Hagenbaumer, a 1989 Waubonsie Valley graduate, was beaming just as much as Allen.
"It's been an amazing day," Hagenbaumer said. "This is what we planned for from Day 1 when I stepped onto the pool deck and had a conversation, this was our goal, to focus on this meet and my kids have all done very, very well."
Naperville Central also had a banner day, advancing all three of its relays and three individuals -- junior Andrew Dai, seventh in the 200 individual medley; senior Brad Sanford sixth in the 50 freestyle; and Ben Russo, fifth in the 100 breaststroke. Dai also gained alternate status in the 100 butterfly by finishing 14th.
"I'm not amazed, but when you run into adversity, it's really easy to go into a shell and clam up, and it's like, you know what? Give me more," said Naperville Central coach Mike Adams.
Hinsdale Central advanced all three of its relays, along with four individuals, and was led by senior Donovan Lahmann, who took third in the 50 freestyle and fourth in the 100 freestyle.
Defending state champion diver Kevin Sullivan from Downers Grove North was his usual self, finishing first after the semifinals at 376.90, just ahead of Homewood-Flossmoor's Jack Williams at 370.70.
Lake Park junior Benjamin Kimmel had a solid day, advancing in both the 100 butterfly and the 100 backstroke.
"I wasn't happy with my 100 fly. I was kind of angry about my swim," Kimmel said. "I used that to push my 100 back, because I didn't want to mess up again."
Fenton advanced senior backstroker Nikolas Fischer to Saturday's finals by virtue of a 10th-place finish in his event and winning his heat. It was his second trip to state.
"This meet was a lot bigger than last year," he said of the 2018 state meet at Evanston. "The stands were right on top of you, and I felt a little more pressure there. I didn't like that pool quite as much."
Of course, like every state meet, there was a little heartbreak. Metea Valley senior Sam Kastan just missed qualifying for Saturday's finals in the 50 freestyle by finishing 15th in 21.23 seconds. York's Jay Jensen took 18th in the 500 freestyle at 4:42.31, also within striking distance of a Saturday finals spot.
"I just got a little fatigued the last 150," Jensen said. "The guy next to me, I was trying to stay with him. I knew he was going to go faster than what he was seeded at, and I was trying to ride the lane line."
Benet sophomore Nicolas Tommasone was a busy man at Friday's preliminaries, as he raced the 50 freestyle and the 100 freestyle, along with legs on the 200 medley relay and 200 freestyle relay. Not bad for a guy who was in his first year at state.
"It was much different than I ever expected it to be," he said. "I've been to a lot of big meets, but nothing can really compare to this. It's a really hyped up meet, and I'm glad I was able to be here."