Boys swimming: St. Charles North wins 1st state title
It's tradition that the state champion swim team takes the trophy for a ceremonial swim after medals are handed out. Teams and coaches get to float in the competition pool and celebrate their final time in the water as a team.
Saturday, for the first time, the team jumping into the water hailed from St. Charles North. One of the strongest teams in the state since its opening in the 2000-01 school year, the North Stars earned their first state title with a dominant two-day performance in this year's finals at New Trier.
"I remember saying to the guys earlier in the year that if you become obsessed with something enough, you can do it," St. Charles North senior Will Myhre said. "We stayed true to who we are. We were obsessed the whole season and this is a legendary performance by us."
St. Charles North finished with 141 points, well ahead of second-placed Neuqua Valley's 112 total.
"A bunch of coaches have come up to me and said, 'welcome to the club,'" North Stars coach Rob Rooney said. "It's nice to be part of the club. I've been waiting 20 years for this and it's a lot harder than I thought. But these guys have been flat-out phenomenal. You've got to have some luck, and Friday night, we got those sixth-place finishes by hundredths of a second -- and that made a difference -- when those kids moved up today."
Earlier in the meet, Siba Filipovic jumped from 11th to finish seventh in the 200 IM, a small move that netted the team an unexpected five points. The performance was perhaps lost by meet's end, but at the time, the swim was critical.
"The only thing that was on my mind was winning the state championship and doing it for my team," Siba Filipovic said. "This is probably the best day of my life -- having a great group of guys behind me, swimming and working our butts off. Then we proved it at the state meet."
While they were strong throughout the meet, St. Charles North's trophy surge began in the middle portion of the meet, following the break for the diving finals. First, Will Myhre became the school's third individual event champion when he won the 100-yard butterfly. Teammate Nate Baxter was third and the North Stars' surge had begun.
Alec Filipovic followed with a seventh-place finish in the 100 freestyle. Ricky Williams and Brad Whitehurst continued the momentum when they finished fourth and 12th, respectively, in the 500 freestyle. Alec Filipovic, Baxter, Charlie Williams and Myhre then finished second in the 200 freestyle relay and the North Stars had one hand on the trophy with the final three events left.
Myhre gained his second state title of the afternoon when he rallied in the final 50 yards to win the 100 breaststroke. He joins older brother Joe Myhre and Chris Peterson as the individual state champions in school history.
"I don't feel that it's 100 percent me," Myhre said. "I finished my 100 fly and my teammate (Baxter) was third and we were happy as a team. I'm happy with my performances and my wins, but this team success means everything to me."
The North Stars boys swimming success continues a strong athletic year for the school, which includes the state title for the girls golf team and a runner-up finish in football.
St. Charles East's goal entering the meet was to surpass its 2018 total of 55 points. The Saints were one of the stories of the meet. They scored 85 points and finished sixth thanks, in part, to a strong finish to the meet.
"I think our seniors have set our underclassmen for success for the next few years," St. Charles East coach Adam Musial said.
With a large number of teams bunched behind the surging North Stars, St. Charles East began a series of strong results when diver Joey Scimeca finished fourth.
"I wanted to finish top six, and the key was to remain calm and collected," Scimeca said. "I had a couple of big dives that I had trouble with during the season. I kept cool and then finished with one of my better dives, because I always want to end on a high note."
While there are two St. Charles swim teams, the divers from both schools train with Nicole Schroop -- and Scimeca said the success at North was felt by the swimmers at East.
"Even though we're divided by the river, this is a St. Charles experience today," Scimeca said. "Will Myhre is killing it today for North and we got a boost yesterday when Sean (Yetter) won a swim-off. Calvin Windle got fifth in the fly and is only a sophomore. I'm excited for what St. Charles teams, both of them, can do next year."
Windle's butterfly finish continued the Saints' charge up the standings, followed by two further fifth-place finishes -- Matt Nagler in the 100 freestyle and Austin Cabel in the 500 freestyle. The Saints solidified their strong finish with a pair of fifth place finishes in the freestyle relays. Nagler, Windle, Garrett Prybell and Cabel were in the 200 freestyle relay team while Windle, Nagler, Prybell and Cabel were the swimmers, in order, in the 400 freestyle relay.
"I had three seniors, my key senior captains and then a sophomore in Cal Windle who helped seal our sixth-place finish. We knew we'd get our diving points, and then we just came flying after that," Musial said.
West Aurora scored in the meet for the first time since 2001 when Cael McLaren finished eighth in the 100 breaststroke.
"I'm excited for next season already and I'm excited as we go back to club season now. There was no pressure today. I was already in finals, so the idea was just to see how I could do. It's a great atmosphere and I've tried to take in the experience as much as I could," McLaren said.
Bill Schalz announced his retirement from high school coaching last fall, and his tenure as Marmion coach ended with Saturday's finals. Nolan Fergus was sixth for the Cadets and Ty Spillane was seventh in the 100 breaststroke.
"Because we only had a couple of swims today, I spent some time catching up with a lot of coaches, many that I don't get to spend a lot of time with," Schalz said.
Over more than 50 state meet trips as a coach, Schalz got very familiar with both New Trier and Evanston -- the only two pools that host the state finals.
"These pools are unique," Schalz said. "The crowd is on top of you. The crowded pool deck adds to the intensity. The fact that it's just top six that score adds to it. Everything is a little more intense here and yeah, I have a lot of great reactions at these pools."