Boys swimming and diving: Deerfield spoils Vernon Hills' Senior Night

By John Phelps
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 1/31/2020 9:40 PM

Seems like yesterday they were just freshmen starting out.

Now, four quick years later and it was that time again as Vernon Hills paid homage to eight swimmers and divers on Senior Night during the Cougars' Central Suburban League North matchup with Deerfield on Friday evening.


"This is a special group in that many of them started in the lower level lanes (7 and 8)," said Cougars coach and VH Aquatics director Jim Pardun. "But with hard work and commitment, most of them have gotten to where they are scoring points for us. They've all been role models for the younger swimmers."

Like four-year varsity diver Nate Rootberg, who posted a season-best 172.85 points in taking fourth on Friday.

"This has been so much fun the last four years," he said. "Diving has been a blast. It's like a family in that everyone supports each other, even after you mess up a dive."

Running mate Kevin Schumacher was third (211.40) in the 1-meter diving, but in the end it was Deerfield that wound up taking the CSL North dual meet, 125-61. Vernon Hills dropped to 3-2 in CSL North duals.

"The guys are really tired but still swimming fast when they need to," added Pardun. "This was a good meet with Deerfield because guys are battling for seeds at conference (at Highland Park in two weeks). This is the hardest three weeks of the season, but it sets up a great taper for us."

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As far as the eight seniors are concerned, JV members Anthony Andreev and Ben Zartler, along with varsity swimmers and divers Preston Lis, Dennis Zaslavsky, Chris Randall, Rootberg, Caleb Smith, and standout water polo player Remi Boes were all recognized.

"It's a really nice feeling right now," said Boes, who broke 1 minute (59.55) for the first time in taking fifth in the 100-yard freestyle.

"To be at this point and to PR on Senior Night is really cool," he said. "And this is such a cool group of guys. I've gotten close with them quickly."

Added Pardun: "He started swimming only a couple of months before the season, so it was a really cool swim to see him get under a minute."


Other standout performances Friday included Jaejin Lee (third, 24.16) in the 50 freestyle and Arjuna Vimalarajah, who was second in the 100 butterfly (58.07.

Tyler Schuldt finished third in the 500 freestyle (5:31.87), while the 200 freestyle relay team of Boes, Zaslavsky, Randall, and Lis touched fourth in 1:45.25.

Additionally, Davis Utsis took second (52.71) and Evan Zurow third (53.81) in the 100 freestyle, while Utsis also tied for first with Deerfield's Patrick Mojsa as both touched in 59.88 in the 100 backstroke.

The 400 freestyle relay was second after Vimalarajah, Zurow, Alex Utsis, and David Utsis finished in 3:32.63.

Apollos Burcham, Nick Hansen, Max India, Mojsa, and Barnett were multiple event winners for the Warriors.

Vernon Hills also honored diving coach Brooke Gabris, who is retiring after some 35 years of service. She started at Libertyville and was there for 15 years before a 14-year hiatus from coaching.

Then, the opening at Vernon Hills became available.

"I saw it as an opportunity knowing I could still help the kids, so I jumped on it," said Gabris, who has been at Vernon Hills the past six years.

"I've made a commitment to myself now. I've really focused on the kids, but 35 years is enough."

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