Stevenson's Zhang seizes coveted sixth spot in state swimming championship finals
Colin Zhang took to the starting block with a determined, almost grim, look on his face.
He had to wait for hours, but the time had come for the Stevenson junior's swim-off in the 200-yard individual medley at Friday's IHSA swimming and diving preliminaries at FMC Natatorium in Westmont.
Zhang and Waubonsie Valley junior Keian Lam had tied for sixth in the initial race, both with a time of 1:50.15. Thus, the swim-off winner would break the tie and would be on to Saturday's championship finals. The runner-up would fall to seventh place and the consolation round.
No way Zhang was going to settle for the consolation prize. He trailed slightly the first two sets of laps but recovered in the second two and won in 1:49.76. He'll join Barrington sophomore Lucas Bucaro in the championship final, who took fifth in 1:50.11.
"It was a lot of fun," Zhang said afterward. "I was really nervous before it. I saw at the 100 I was right with him."
That's what state swim is about -- seizing opportunity. Zhang also took fifth in the 100 breaststroke in 55.74 seconds, while he and teammates Michael Wyrocki, Diego Rosario-Freytes and David Kohan took second in the 200 medley relay in 1:31.90.
In all, Stevenson placed all three relays in the championship finals, along with four individuals. Not bad, considering the team has battled sickness the last two weeks. Wyrocki finished sixth in the 100 butterfly in 49.48.
"I think we did better than expected," Wyrocki said of his team's efforts in light of the sickness. "Honestly, today, we came together and stepped up. Colin was sick a week and a half ago and he came back to the finals in the breaststroke."
Bucaro and junior teammate Rylan Anselm went 1-3 in the longest event of the day, the 500 freestyle. Bucaro won the event in 4:28.66, while Anselm was third 4:29.29, just .01 of a second behind runner-up Alex Parkinson of Neuqua Valley.
"We train together, so we're going off of each other every day in practice," said Anselm, who also took fourth in the 200 freestyle in 1:38.97. "Our times are like one second apart. We were fast."
And how, Bucaro said. "I usually get beat by him a lot in practice. It feels good to finally beat him."
Also making a finals appearance will be Cary-Grove seniors Danial Sanahurskyj, fifth in the 100 butterfly (49.42). Junior teammate William Watson was ninth in the 100 backstroke (50.25). Watson, Sanahurskyj, Connor Chan and Dexter Zielinski were 10th in the 200 medley relay.
Locals dominated that 100 backstroke. Schaumburg junior Szymon Mieczkowski was second in 49.50, while Fremd's Jaden Heinlein was sixth in 50.01. Conant junior Bryce Loeger checked in at 50.17, good enough for eighth.
The 100 back was redemption for Heinlein, as he took 13th in the 200 individual medley, making him a consolation final alternate Saturday. What's his game plan between Friday night and Saturday afternoon?
"I'm just going to go home, look at my race, my mom recorded it, and I'm going to dissect it and see what I need to do tomorrow," Heinlein said.
Added Loeger: "At sectionals I feel like I underperformed. I really focused on my tempo, tempo off the walls and especially that last 25 (yards)."
Among the divers, Rolling Meadows junior Karen Whiting was second overall with 373.90 points. Trailing him were Stevenson senior Danny Silverstein (fifth with 335.30), and Fremd senior Ben Mears (seventh with 332.75.