Boys swimming: Kondrashev leads Neuqua Valley to sectional title
Dima Kondrashev has never been to the IHSA state swimming and diving meet.
The Neuqua Valley junior is about to get an education.
Kondrashev qualified for state in four events at the Metea Valley sectional Saturday, helping lift the Wildcats to the team title with 216 points. Plainfield was a distant second with 183.5, with Naperville Central (181) and Waubonsie Valley (179) close behind.
Kondrashev took second in the 50-yard freestyle in 21.53 seconds, a shade behind Benet junior Jack Larson at 21.51. He also took fourth in the 100 freestyle in 47.03 seconds, and raced legs on the 200 freestyle relay, second in 1:27.11, and the 400 freestyle relay, which clinched the team title by finishing first in 3:08.68.
So Dima ... what do you think state is going to be like?
"I just think it will be really fast swimming, really intense," Kondrashev said. "I'm going to make sure I prepare well this week, and just bring it next week."
His teammate, senior Aiden Dunn, has already gone to state. He punched his return ticket to the state meet starting Friday at the FMC Natatorium in Westmont by winning the 200 freestyle with a pool record 1:40.27, and the 500 freestyle (4:34.07), though he was pushed in the latter race by Marmion's Tyler Conner (4:36.92). In fact, Conner led the race for the first 200 yards.
"I wasn't expecting (Conner) to go out as fast as he did, and it was kind of fun to beat someone I haven't raced before and then kind of have to go back on him," Dunn said. "I definitely saw him, and I was like, OK, I don't know if he's a front-half swimmer or a back-half swimmer and around the 250, I'm like, I've got to swim my own race."
Naperville Central got a whale of a day out of Caleb Yau, who helped the Redhawks qualify its meet-starting 200 medley relay, which won in 1:35.15, just .30 ahead of Waubonsie Valley and .41 in front of third-place Marmion. He also anchored the 400 freestyle relay, which just qualified with a time of 3:12.39. In between, Yau took third in the 200 individual medley (154.64) and fourth in the 100 backstroke (51.92) -- all qualifiers.
Adding to the fun for Naperville Central was junior Alex Lakin, who qualified in the 100 breaststroke by finishing third (58.11) and Sam Lendzion, who made it in the 100 butterfly by also seizing third (51.66).
As usual, Waubonsie Valley was led by Arnav Deshpande, who qualified in four events -- the 200 medley relay (second in 1:35.45), the 100 freestyle (second in 46.7), and the 400 freestyle relay (third in 3:11.53).
But his best performance was in the 100 backstroke, which he won in 50.55 seconds.
"Only half of our team shaved today," Deshpande said. "We're going to save a lot of firepower for state next week."
Metea Valley was paced by Jaeddan Gamilla, who set a pool record in the 200 IM, winning in 1:52.43. He also won the 100 breaststroke in 56.92, just ahead of Waubonsie Valley's Keian Lam (57.23). He'll also go to state in the 200 freestyle relay (third in 1:27.16) and the 400 freestyle relay (fifth in 3:11.67).
Don't think Gamilla is out for himself. Rather the contrary -- the relays, he said, were most satisfying for him.
"I've seen how hard my teammates have worked this past season, and to see them go to state is amazing," Gamilla said, "just to see their hard work paying off."
Naperville North was seventh with 106 points and was led by Jonathan Wang, coming off a solid DuPage Valley Conference meet. He helped the Huskies qualify their 200 medley relay by finishing sixth in 1:36.12, and individually, he qualified in the 100 backstroke by taking fifth in 52.27.
Benet chased the Huskies all afternoon and ended up eighth with 90.5 points. Doing the most qualifying damage was Larson, who won the 50 freestyle in 21.51 and took sixth in the 100 freestyle in 47.10.
Larson is another swimmer who hasn't been to state previously. What's his notion of what it will be like? Well, for one, it's his club team's home pool, which could be an advantage.
"I'm thinking it's going to be probably one of the fastest meets I've ever swam," Larson said. "I'm really looking forward to this."
Marmion was fifth with 152 points, and got solid swims out of Sean Wehner, who helped the Cadets qualify in the 200 medley relay (third in 1:35.56) and the 400 freestyle relay (second in 3:10.71). He also won the 100 butterfly in 50.72, and took third in the 100 backstroke (51.60). Like Larson, he's never been to state.
Plainfield had a lot of strong swims, but consider the day of Jack Burke. He won the 100 freestyle in 46.32, and took second behind Deshpande in the 100 backstroke in 50.81. He also qualified the Thundercats' 200 freestyle relay, which also won in 1:26.14, and the 400 freestyle relay, fourth in 3:11.66.
He's been to state. For guys like Larson and Wehner who haven't gone, what can they expect?
"It is top-tier," Burke said. "Everyone is super, super fast. Be prepared mentally and physically."
Oswego was ninth with 82 points and was led by Tanner Stumpenhorst, who took second in the 100 butterfly in 51.57. He's never been to state, either.
"All I know is I've heard it's great energy and it's crazy," Stumpenhorst said. "I'm really looking forward to it."