Boys swimming: Stevenson's Stensby '3-peats' in 50 free at state
Cloud Nine is a cool place to be.
Stevenson senior Topher Stensby knows all about it.
"Nothing's changed," he said, referring to his first Cloud Nine experience after winning his first state title in the 50-yard freestyle two years ago. "This is amazing. Every year has been just as special. If you would have told me three years ago I'd be in this position, I would have laughed. I never would have dreamed this would happen."
Special is Stensby adding a repeat performance last year in the same event, followed by a three-peat over the weekend at the IHSA swimming and diving state finals at New Trier.
Heading to the University of Notre Dame next fall, Stensby swam the 50 free in 20.04 to touch first and collect yet another piece of hardware for the trophy case.
And this despite swimming most of the season with tweaks in his shoulders.
"I missed some of invitationals and was doing a lot of strength conditioning and stretching," Stensby said. "Finally, it came time to go. I can fight through the pain."
Stensby was also the defending state champ in the 100 freestyle. He settled for second with a finals swim of 44.71. Afterward, unselfishly, he was all about team.
"I really need my teammates behind me when I swim," Stensby said. "I can't do this without them. What I wanted the most is for our relays to do well. We have such a great senior class and I just wanted them to go out with a bang."
The Stevenson 200 free relay of seniors Richard Lee, Joseph Song, Max Ryaguzov and Stensby finished third (1:23.48).
In the first event of the day, the Patriots' 200 medley relay of junior Jack Zhang, Song, Beno Maya and Lee touched 11th (1:34.78).
In the final event of the meet, Nick Comini led off Stevenson's 400 free relay. He, AJ Carollo, Zhang and Stensby came in seventh in 3:04.82.
Other medal winners for Stevenson included Ryazugov in the 200 IM (11th, 1:55.92) and Song in the 100 breaststroke (11th, 58.05).
As a team, the Patriots finished eighth (75). St. Charles North (141) won the meet, while Neuqua Valley was second (112) and Waubonsie Valley third.
And while Stensby and many of the Patriots graduate this spring, Mundelein freshman Omar Fathallah got his high school career off to an exciting start.
Fathallah was the first Mustang since Ayrton Kasemets in 2014 to have a Saturday swim.
"I'm getting used to this now, with my nerves," said Fathallah, who wound up with a 10th-place medal after swimming a 46.84 in the 100 freestyle. "It's been a cool experience having my teammates here rooting me on. It feels good to continue to press and see how close to the top you can get. I'm just trying to not let them down."
Fathallah qualified for the 50 freestyle too but just missed reaching finals.
And with him and a solid core of returning swimmers, Mundelein coach Rahul Sethna is pleased with the direction of his program.
"This was huge having a freshman with a Saturday swim," Sethna said. "He's really enjoyed it. It's a different animal than club swimming because of the team aspect."
Fathallah's efforts over the weekend helped Mundelein finish 41st in the team standings.
"Every year is a steppingstone," Sethna said. "And we're excited about next year already."