DVC championship marks Naperville Central as a state contender
Naperville Central swimmer Andrew Dai had plenty of success last season and fully expected his senior year to deliver many more good times.
He just wasn't sure if the Redhawks could fill all the holes from graduation and put together another team capable of coming up big in the postseason.
In winning Saturday's DuPage Valley Conference meet, this year's Redhawks continued to make strides and now look again like a team to watch with at the state sectionals just two weeks away.
Dai helped Naperville Central open the meet with a third place in the 200 medley relay, then took second to Waubonsie Valley standout Aayush Deshpande in the 200 IM with a time of 2:00.11.
Deshpande and Dai also finished 1-2 in the 100 fly -- 51.03 to 52.35 -- and while the host Redhawks didn't pile up first-place finishes, they captured the DVC title with 251 points. Waubonsie Valley was second at 234 and Naperville North third at 221.
"At the start of the season, we had a lot of doubts. We graduated a lot of people. Other teams weren't really sure what we'd do," said Dai, who swam on Naperville Central's 200-yard medley relay that took second in the state in 2019. "But everyone stepped up and we ended up getting done what we needed to get done."
Individually, Dai was strong. But as a team, it was another developmental step for the program that has come on strong the last month.
"It was pretty good today. I went best times in pretty much every event, which is always encouraging to see," Dai said. "I think everyone that swam today was going way faster than the beginning of the season. The most important thing now is to go out and give it 100 percent, and to work on things in practice to get better. If we do that and we give it our all, at the end of the year, whatever happens happens and it will probably be good."
Neuqua Valley's Connor Boyle will also probably be good at the Metea Valley sectional and again at state. The Wildcats all-stater won the 100 free in 46.67 and joined Jimmy Senese, Tim Karubas and Alex Dunn to take first in the 200 free relay in 1:26.86. The Naperville North quartet of Owen Jacobs, Jack Tarantino, Andrew Li and Grant Bochenski was second with a time of 1:27.50.
"As a whole our team has made a lot of really long strides the past couple weeks," said Boyle, who swam on the school's state-champion 200 free relay squad last year. "At sectionals we'll be a force to be reckoned with. We have a bunch of people stepping it up lately.
"For me a personal goal has been to help the rest of the team get to where they need to be. It's a team sport and you can't win state by yourself."
The Huskies' Bochenski set a DVC meet record while winning the 50 free in 21.26. Boyle was second in 21.53.
The Naperville North standout also claimed the 100 backstroke with a clocking of 51.84 and was part of the winning 200 medley relay team on Saturday.
Metea Valley's Jeddrick Gamilla won the 100 breaststroke in 1:01.47. Waubonsie Valley's Lucas Conrads tuned up for the sectional by picking up wins in the 200 free and the 500 free.