Boys swimming: Neuqua Valley's Boyle has gained confidence each year
It's a little funny now, but there was a time when Neuqua Valley senior sprint freestyler Connor Boyle wasn't the cool, confident swimmer he is today.
"As a freshman, I didn't know what was going to happen," Boyle said. "I didn't know if I was going to be on the varsity. (I said), "I'm going to swim and see what happens."
What happened? A lot. He made it to state in all three relays and the 100-yard freestyle. As a sophomore, he was a member of the Wildcats' state champion 200 and 400 freestyle relays.
Then came junior year, when he stood atop the starting blocks at Evanston's pool as the state champion in both the 50 and 100 freestyle. In the latter event, he outdueled powerful Loyola senior Luke Maurer to prevail by .09 of a second.
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, and a season that began with less than a week of practice before a monthlong pause, Boyle is ready to make the most of his last go-round as a high school swimmer.
"High school season is the pinnacle," he said. "When you're at the high school age, IHSA swimming is probably the most motivational."
Neuqua Valley coach Chad Allen lives in the same neighborhood as Boyle and has known him since he was 8 years old. It was before that freshman year that Allen thought Boyle could be a special swimmer.
He's only improved since those days, and there is plenty to like about his style in the pool.
"One, he's got a wonderful feel with the water," Allen said. "He moves a lot of water when he swims. He moves faster than anyone I've seen at his size. He's got great stroke technique."
Count leadership among his talents as well, according to junior distance swimmer Aiden Dunn.
"Every day, he just pushes you," Dunn said. "I was not the best freshman year, and sophomore year I started training with him and he was a game-changer for me. He comes in and puts in every bit of effort, and he's a friend and even mentors me."
There is one disappointing thing about Boyle's protracted senior season -- there's no state series, including a sectional, which is unlike the girls' season last fall.
No matter. He has his focus on the DuPage Valley Conference dual meet schedule, for which he will taper.
"I don't think it will be that challenging, to be honest," he said. "The conference meet is the state meet. It doesn't matter where I'm swimming, it's the last meet of the season."
Then it's off to Virginia, where he'll join Glenbrook South star Max Iida, also a multiple Illinois state champion. As for the recruiting process, Boyle said, "I remember the coach was super-energetic, the nicest guy, very welcoming and I was looking forward to the next four years."
Boyle is planning to study either computer science or business at Virginia.