Boys swimming: Stevenson's Stensby on track for state championship(s)
Some are just happy making it to the state meet. For Stevenson, the drive goes a little deeper.
After finishing fourth and fifth in the team standings the past two years, the Patriots are looking for that elusive top-3 team trophy come Saturday afternoon at the IHSA swimming and diving state finals at New Trier.
The quest started in fine fashion last week when Stevenson won the Barrington sectional and qualified all three relays and a host of individuals for the state meet.
"We've had a great week of work and a quiet confidence running throughout," said Stevenson coach Doug Lillydahl.
Two-time 50-yard freestyle state champ and reigning 100 free state champ Topher Stensby does his talking in the water.
The senior all-American and Notre Dame commit cruised to the championship heat in both of his events. He first swam a personal best time of 19.93 seconds in the 50, almost a new state record. The previous state meet record was set by Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin's Ryan Held (19:76) in the 2014 finals.
"Topher has high standards for himself. We know we have to perform at our very best to compete in the state of Illinois. Right now the guys' confidence level is to do exactly that," added Lillydahl.
Stensby then took command of the 100 freestyle. He was seeded 13th going in but blistered the field in a time of 44.31 to take over the top spot heading to the championship heat Saturday.
Seeded 18th, senior Max Ryaguzov vaulted up to the consolation championship Saturday after touching 10th (1:53.62) in prelims of the 200 individual medley. In the same event, Joseph Song (1:54.50) and Carmel Catholic's Kyle Falkstrom (1:54.91) just missed Saturday, finishing 15th and 16th, respectively.
But Song turned around later and made it to the consolation finals after finishing 10th in the 100 breaststroke (57.93).
And speaking of those Stevenson relays, it hasn't been easy but the blueprint is going as expected.
"We have such great senior presence on our team with a couple of younger guys to help spice up the excitement level. Should be a great combination," Lillydahl said.
Seeded 19th, the 200 medley relay of Stensby, Song, junior Jack Zhang, and senior Beno Maya moved up to 10th after touching in 1:34.17 in prelims.
"That's always been one of our top goals is to get the relays through," said Stensby throughout the season.
Then, the quartet of Richard Lee, Song, Max Ryaguzov, and Stensby jumped to the top seed after a 1:22.88 in the prelims of the 200 free relay.
In the final event of the night, the Stevenson 400 free relay of Jake Kim, Jack Zhang, Nathan Gates, and Stensby made it to the consolation finals after finishing 10th (3:08.88) in prelims.
Be on the lookout for Mundelein freshman Omar Fathallah, who looks to turn plenty of heads over the next three years.
Fathallah broke a couple of pool records at the Highland Park sectional last week. Seeded second, he held his ground in the prelims, touching 10th (46.66) to reach the consolation championship.
He's looking to become the highest finisher for Mundelein since Connor Black won the 100 butterfly in 2013.
"It's so hard to get to the top 12, so what he did was huge," said Mundelein coach Rahul Sethna. "This meet is like nothing he has ever experienced."
Seeded sixth, Fathallah had earlier missed the Saturday finals in the 50 freestyle, where he finished 22nd in the prelims (21.54).
Both Mustang relays swam well despite not making it to Saturday. The 400 free relay of Aaron Anastos, Hunter Magee, Ryan Zentz, and Fathallah finished 24th in the prelims (3:16.70).
Meanwhile, the 200 free relay team of Fathallah, Anastos, Magee, and Geary was 22nd in prelims (1:27.62).
This was the first trip back to state since 2016.
Magee and Zentz have been staples in the Mundelein swim program for the last four years.
"They had fabulous careers," added Sethna. "But we feel good we can get back here next year and have more Saturday swims. I'm proud of these guys for what they did tonight, as well as the whole team. They were on a mission since Day 1 and accomplished a lot of things."
Deerfield sophomore Zayne Danielwicz will compete for a top-12 medal in 1-meter diving. In the semifinals Friday, he posted 343.60 points.
Highland Park senior Andrew Vorobev made it to the consolation finals of the 100 backstroke (51.55).