Vernon Hills shines at annual Pardun Classic

By Bill Esbrook
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 1/7/2023 5:49 PM

Several years ago, the long-standing Vernon Hills invitational swim meet was renamed the "Coach Phil Pardun Cougar Classic Invite."

Current Cougars coach Jim Pardun, Phil's son, played a big part in that, and it's a fitting tribute for a gentleman who spent nearly 40 years as a swim coach, first at Elk Grove and Rolling Meadows, then initiating the program at Vernon Hills.


Phil and his family were on hand to see Saturday's meet, and the current crop of Vernon Hills swimmers did both father and son proud.

Cougars sophomore Daniel Berke led the way with wins in the 50 free and 100 fly as Vernon Hills won the invite with a score of 224.

Mundelein (134) finished second followed by Schaumburg (126).

"My coach (Jim Pardun) always talks about his Dad's career and what a great coach he was," said Berke. "He wanted to bring this meet back, because of COVID we haven't been able to run it recently. I think it's great that we did so well today."

"It's a great feeling," said Phil Pardun of having the meet named in his honor. "I'm just so proud of my son Jim. After spending almost 40 years coaching, to have him do this is just very humbling."

Berke took the 100 fly in the time of 54.66, and the 50 free in 22.12 as the invite returned to the format in which it was originally started.

The sophomore added that he's been specializing in the 50 since the time he began to swim competitively.

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"I started as a 50 freestyler back in middle school," said Berke. "I found out I was really fast, it just came out of nowhere. I've hung on to it, I've practiced it, and it's something I didn't expect when I started swimming."

Szymon Mieczkowski of Schaumburg won twice Saturday, first in the 100 free (47.85) and then in the 100 back (51:16).

Another sophomore, Evan Di Vito of Warren, was fastest of all in the 200 individual medley with a mark of 2:08.29.

"I was pretty nervous today," said Di Vito, "but I just pushed it on the breaststroke, and in the fly, I just took it out strong and kept going."

"The butterfly is my best stroke right now, but it's also the most challenging. It's really tough to keep the same tempo the whole time, it's just a whole-body movement and it's really tiring. When I finished I was shocked, actually, because I beat my time by like three seconds."


Blue Devils coach Kim Lobitz said that she wasn't surprised by the sophomore's stellar performance.

"That was a great swim," said Lobitz, "and in the breaststroke, he did exactly what he needed to do. Evan is a great kid, coachable, listens and works hard."

Eli Spivak of Vernon Hills took home the medal in the 500 free in the time of 4:56.28, while teammate Will Rendall was the winner of the 100 breaststroke (1:02.09).

Jonathan Anno of Mundelein (426.30) finished first in the diving event; while Vernon Hills won the 200 medley relay (Edward Zhao, Andrew Laborevitch, Berke and Rendall).

The Cougars also won the 400 free relay behind Spivak, Berke, Rendall and Zhao, while the Mundelein team was victorious in the 200 free relay with Matthew Wills, Alec Sethna, David Tatevosian and Eddie Serrano.

Serrano also won an individual event, the 200 free (1:46.30).

"My mindset (in the 200 free) was just to go all it and give it all I had," said Serrano, a senior. "We've just come off a hard week of training so I was a little exhausted, but I just wanted to go out and see what I could do right from the start."

"It's been amazing to see this team grow so much since I was a freshman. I'm really excited (about the rest of the season)."

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