Boys swimming and diving: Hersey makes it a three-peat in MSL East
The song 'Take Me Home, Country Roads' by John Denver blared over the loudspeaker at the Prospect pool Friday as Hersey's swimmers -- and coaches -- took a celebratory dip after their dual meet win over Rolling Meadows.
And why not, as the Huskies had just taken home their third straight Mid-Suburban East championship.
Hersey outpointed Meadows 111-74 to claim the victory.
"Nobody thought we could do it except us," said Hersey coach Dick Mortensen of the three consecutive title. I'm very proud of this group and how they stuck together. I knew we had a lot of depth, but I didn't know at the beginning of the season just how much quality depth we had.
"They usually play that song near the end of the 400 free," added Mortensen, "but today they saved it until the end when they threw me in the pool. It's kind of cool, and it's kind of become our kids' theme song, that is, finish your races strong."
Seniors Gavin Hill and Spencer Burkhalter led the Huskies, while the Mustangs had some stellar moments in the pool Friday evening as well.
Sam Keeley of Meadows scored wins in the 50-yard freestyle (21.73) and the 100-yard breaststroke (1:02.40), while the Mustangs also excelled in the relay events.
"We came in here trying to win as many events as we could,' said Meadows coach Monika Chiappetta. "Now we're going to continue to focus on the rest of season and I think we're poised to do well in the end of the year meets."
Hersey's Hill won the 200 free in the time of 1:48.20 and also triumphed in the 100 fly (53.60).
"We've been given the gift of a lot of talented kids," said Hill. "We work hard every day and it's nice to see that hard work pay off. I'm excited to see what we have come the championship season.
"It was a great experience," added Hill of the Huskies' division-winning celebration. "We were rowdy, we were ready to go and we were happy. It was great to get the coach in the pool."
Burkhalter posted a victory in the 200 IM with a time of 2:04.48.
"Winning the East three years in a row is a tough feat," said Burkhalter. "This group we have continues to grow. We envisioned this at the start of the year, it was our goal, and it came through with a lot of hard work."
"It's just a step in the journey though," he added. "We've got bigger goals for conference, sectionals and state."
Other individual winners included Ethan Marunde of Hersey in the 100 free (49.98), Jack Troyer of the Huskies (225.60) in the 1-meter dive and teammate Kevin Pollina (5:01.32) taking the 500 free.
Lukas Slifierz of Meadows won the 100 back in 58.56, while the Mustangs put together relay wins in the 200 medley (Slifierz, Keeley, Jacob Hardt and Vlad Molin, 1:39.14) and the 200 free as Molin, Hardt, Keeley and Slifierz put up a time of 1:28.80.
Hersey (3:25.10) won the 400 free relay behind Marunde, Burkhalter, Hill and Mikhail Nikiforov, and that victory came on the final event of the meet and helped Mortensen post his 29th overall East division title, counting both boys and girls swimming and boys and girls water polo.
The longtime coach gave all of the credit to the kids.
"We usually have an eclectic group of swimmers," said Mortensen, "and when you put them all together, it's always something special."
"All of our coaches, especially coach Mortensen, give us feedback after all of our races," added Burkhalter. "That's definitely helped me become not only a better swimmer but also a better person."