Strong kick lifts St. Charles East over North Stars
While the calendar still reads January, Friday night's boys swim dual meet with St. Charles East and St. Charles North offered an early glimpse of some good, old-fashioned, down-to-the-wire pressure between the friendly rivals.
Trailing the defending state champion North Stars most of the way, the Saints received a 1-3 finish in the evening's final event -- the 400-yard freestyle relay -- to pull out the hard-fought, 94-91 victory at St. Charles North.
Matt Boryk, Ryan Medus, Sawyer Schulte and Sean Yetter did their part for the Saints with a third-place showing, leading the way for the quartet of Owen Mruk, Jack Redden, Calvin Windle and Braden Clarke, who fought off a late challenge from the North Stars to emerge victorious in a time of 3:11.76.
"Once we went 1-3 in the sprint relay (200 free), I knew the meet was really going to be close," said Saints coach Adam Musial, "and then it came down to the 4 by 1."
At the outset of the relay, Mruk provided the Saints a narrow lead that Redden and Windle helped widen before Clarke held off the North Stars' Alek Filipovic on the anchor leg.
"It's amazing," said Windle, who joined teammates Connor Drury, Clarke and Boryk for a first-place finish in the 200 free relay three events earlier. "Every time we swim this (against North), it's energetic -- a lot of emotion.
"We just love to race against these guys. They're a great team."
Windle knew what was at stake for his team going into the final event.
"I was told right before that we had to get first and third," said Windle. "We knew going into it that we had to get stuff done. We know it's going to be a heck of a race every time because that team (North) is stacked."
Windle, a junior, also captured a pair of individual titles, winning the 200 free (1:42.97) and 100 fly (51.27).
"I was happy with my day," said Windle, who edged the North Stars' Ricky Williams (51.48) in a rematch from last year's state meet where Williams took third, two places better than Windle. "There's always more work to be done though. It's not over until the last swim at state."
Mruk and Yetter claimed the Saints' other individual victories in the 500 free and 100 breast, respectively.
"North is one of those meets where I know we're going to get quality swimming," said Musial. "Those pressure situations are huge, especially for some underclassmen who haven't had the opportunity yet to be in those positions at a state meet.
"We're excited to see what the back end of the season brings. We've got some talent."
The North Stars began the meet by capturing the 200 medley relay behind Alek Filipovic, Siba Filipovic, Nathan Baxter and Dan Kowaleski, and received a pair individual wins from Alek Filipovic (50 free, 100 back) and victories from Siba Filipovic (200 IM), Williams (100 free) and Jared McIntosh (diving).
North Stars coach Rob Rooney took the narrow defeat in stride.
"I think that you have to be able to handle situations like that and fail so you know what to do when it matters," said Rooney. "Good for them (Saints) -- they gained confidence. Now we gained adversity. We're going to Evanston tomorrow -- we had to handle that adversity last year because we lost this same meet to them.
"I'm not saying I wanted to lose but I don't mind losing if you learn."