In November, at the start of the season, Kyle Ahlgren put together a huge Illinois boys’ high school swimming preview. Today, with the lineups for next weekend’s meet set, Karl Ortegon sat down to take a look event-by-event at what to expect this weekend.
As another IHSA State meet draws near, let’s look at recent IHSA history. On the girls side, the New Trier Trevians have won state the last four years, including their win by three points over Downers Grove North this past November. The boys have been champions going on three years now, most recently led by current USC freshman Reed Malone, who broke the state record in the 200 free last year and took the 500 free title.
Despite graduating incredible senior classes from the 2012-2013 season, both the girls and boys teams have been able to rebuild from within, speaking to the depth of the Trevians which is unmatched across the state, as well as an amazing coaching staff, headed by Coach Mark Onstott, who is retiring after this season. A strong senior class, including defending 100 breaststroke and 200 IM champion Jae Park, once again leads the Trevs to Evanston Township High School, the site of the 2014 IHSA Boys State meet.
This year, however, New Trier is going to have very tight competition for the crown. Libertyville HS and University Normal are both back stronger from last year, with both teams returning all of their point-scorers from the 2013 meet. Senior Alex Snarski, who is headed to Northwestern University next year, leads Libertyville. He broke Olympian Matt Grevers’ 100 back conference record in a very fast, and untapered, 50.07 en route to Libertyville taking the conference title last weekend. Junior Matt Harrington, who swam a 49 fly last year, will join Snarski in battle against the Trevs and U-Normal. Normal returns senior Adam Drury, who is the fastest 200-freestyler from last year’s state meet that didn’t graduate, and Jake Miller, the favorite to upset New Trier’s Park in the 200 IM. Should these three teams swim as expected, the state title will likely come down to the final 400 free relay.
Despite New Trier’s proven success in the medley, Libertyville is the overwhelming favorite for this relay. Snarski should be the fastest leadoff leg in the entire meet (he was 23.39 last year) and Harrington put down a 21.86 fly leg last year. New Trier’s Park will be one of the fastest breast legs in the state, but the back half for the Trevs, as well as the rest of the field, will have trouble catching back up after Snarski. Metea Valley will butt heads with New Trier for second, as they have a great junior duo between Jordan O’Brien and Matt Salerno. O’Brien was 25.73 breast last year, and the versatile Salerno can split 25 breast, 22 high fly, and 20 high free. Salerno will swim free, after sophomore Alex Dillman went a 50.37 fly at their sectional meet and can take on fly duties in the medley.
U-Normal’s Adam Drury is the favorite to win this event, the only returning swimmer under 1:40 last year. He will clash with rising star Murphy McQuet, junior at New Trier, who has been 1:42 untapered multiple times this season. Jared Schimmelpfenning of Peoria Notre Dame is the only non-senior, save for Drury, from last year’s top 12 in this event. This is one of the weakest events in the state, and nobody will come very close to Malone’s record-breaking swim last year, but team battles will be fueled by good swims from Drury and McQuet.
Another NT vs. U-N showdown will take place in the 200 IM, with defending champion Jae Park for the Trevians and Normal’s Jake Miller. Miller had the flu for last year’s state meet, and didn’t swim up to his potential in the IM and had to scratch the 500. Park won in a nail-biter over current Iowa freshman Nick Zito, 1:50.04 to 1:50.05. Miller, however, went 1:48.64 at the 2013 Winter Junior Nationals in December. Park is an incredible racer, and has consistently been 1:52’s in the IM this year, which is a little faster than what he was going last year. The showdown could push one or both of them under the 1:48.15 state mark, set in 2001 by Dan Trupin. Naperville Central, a team who always tapers extremely well, has senior IM’ers Connor Lamb and sophomore Scott Piper, who could both make their way into the A final. With Jon Salomon of Glenbrook South moving to the sprint freestyle events (he was 3rd in 1:50.9 last year) and Salerno of Metea Valley dropping the IM for the 50 free, the event opens up for the rest of the top 12.
Last year was the Connor Black show, as he went 19.80 in prelims in this event and broke Matt Grevers’ state. Ryan Held, who placed 2nd, is no longer stuck in Black’s shadow, and the future NC State swimmer is the only competitor who has been under 20. Behind him will be Salomon and Mossimo Chavez of Whitney Young. Also, Quinn Risley of Riverside-Brookfield, who was only 21.93 at last year’s state meet, threw down a 20.74 which actually seeds him third behind Chavez and ahead of Salomon. Salerno will be racing to make finals along with a slew of 21-mids from the sectionals meets.
Diving is scored the same as an individual swimming event, with 16 points awarded to the top finisher down to 1 point for the 12th place diver. Usually one of New Trier’s strong points, they were unable to qualify any diver to state. Normal qualified no divers for state either, however Libertyville is sending two to state. Their highest qualifier is senior Pat Birck, who is seeded 12th. Even if he finishes in 12th, that one point could make the difference this year. Joey Cifelli, last year’s runner-up from Marian, is the top seed, after his score of 552.60 from sectionals.
The field may not be able to challenge Connor Black’s 46.71 state and national public record in this event from last year, but this is a very deep event. There are already 5 swimmers who have posted 49’s after sectionals, and it is very possible that breaking 50 seconds won’t get a swimmer into the A final. Harvard-bound Steven Tan of Illinois Math & Science Academy is the only swimmer to have broken 49; his best is 48.63, making him the favorite. Snarski and Harrington were both 49s at their sectional meet for Libertyville, and McQuet of New Trier, who has been 50.40, will look to make the A final for big points for the Trevs. The other 49s from sectionals were Justin deDianous of Normal Community West, who is actually a twin. His brother Tyler is swimming the 50 and 100 free at state. The final 49 is freshman star Franco Reyes of Hinsdale Central. Daniel Hein, sophomore at Dekalb, has a best of 49, although he was 50.8 in sectionals.
Ryan Held, defending champion from last year, will likely break the state record of 44.06 set by Kevin Overholt during the suit-era in 2009. Held has a lifetime best of 43.91. Chavez and Salomon will be battling behind him, followed by Victor Qiao (Glenbrook North), Risley, and the host Evanston’s Chris Russo. Russo will fight to be the first A final qualifier in an individual event for the Wildkits since Tim Silkaitis in the 200 IM and 100 back in 2006. Brian Portland of Hinsdale Central is another name to watch in the 100 free. Surprising sectionals swims from New Trier’s Connor Fotsch and U-N’s Adam Drury did not qualify them for state. Drury has a best of 45.59, and that’s around a 10-point blow to Normal, seeing as he would’ve been top 6. Fotsch has been 47 high untapered this season and has been 46 on their 400 relay, and could have provided a boost for the Trevians.
Jake Miller will look to redeem himself after scratching the 500 last year due to illness. Mike Wolfe (Bloomington), however, has been right under 4:40 very consistently throughout the entire season. Jared Schimmelpfenning will be back at it in this event, and after that there is a significant drop off. It will still probably take a 4:40 or better to make it back to finals. In the wake of the Danny Thomson-Reed Malone era, where they tested each other and state records, Illinois still waits for a 500 freestyler to challenge their dominance.
200 FREE RELAY
The 200 free relay will be a battle between Libertyville, who has been the fastest during season, and U-Normal, who has potential to split sub-21 on all four legs. An ill Miller split 20.58 anchoring, and Steven Fishman split 20.87 last year. Drury lead off 21.42, but could split a 20 with a relay start if he switches with Miller to anchor. Their fourth swimmer, John Remmes, was only 21.93 with a relay start last year, but at sectionals this past weekend he anchored their medley relay in 20.88. Libertyville will depend on Harrington showing up big, as he has been under 21 flat start. New Trier does not have the sprinting depth they have had in the past, so they will be fighting teams like Metea Valley, Hinsdale Central, and Peoria Notre Dame for an A final spot. Another team to watch for the title is Glenbrook South. Salomon has split 20 mid for them on multiple occasions, and the supporting cast will have to be fast to overtake Libertyville or Normal.
Andrew Jovanovic broke none other than Matt Grevers’ state record in the 100 back last year, and Snarski was the only other swimmer under 50. This year, Steven Tan is swimming back, and his best is 49.74, which is very close to Snarski’s best of 49.63. Daniel Hein has the third seed after sectionals (51.08) and is followed by Allen Feng (51.37) of Stevenson and Daniel Smith (51.47) of Lake Forest. Sean Workman, of O’Fallon, has been 51.38 mid season, and he will be in the mix. Libertyville’s title hopes may rest on whether or not Snarski can hold off Tan.
Jae Park will face off with Matt Salerno again in the 100 breast. Salerno took the top seed going into finals, but fell to 6th in finals while Park won in 55.86, the only swimmer sub 56. Since, Salerno has been 55.40 (out of season), which makes for a great matchup. Jordan O’Brien (Salerno’s teammate) and Art Kasemets, who was Connor Black’s teammate last year, should challenge as well. Libertyville and Normal have no threats to score points in this event, and if Matt Weiser of New Trier can make it into finals, it could tip the scale in the Trevians’ favor.
400 FREE RELAY
Always a fun event at any meet, this year will be interesting. The scores among the top 3 will be very close, and it could all come down to this relay. Host Evanston actually has the top seed going into state (3:07.98), which is the Wildkits’ best relay since they won state in the 400 relay (3:07.17) and in the team scores in 2005. They are also close to the school record of 3:06.93, set in 2001 when the Wildkits won state and national titles. Regardless, Normal, New Trier, and Libertyville will bring the heat, and each team has more than one leg that has sub 46 potential. Libertyville and New Trier have had battles at invitational meets during season, however the Wildcats have lost both contests by mere tenths to the Trevians. Normal Community West is another team to watch, lead by the deDianous twins.
The 2014 IHSA Boys State Meet will be held at Evanston Township High School. Prelims are on Friday, February 28th; with the first heat of the medley relay starting at 3:30 pm. Finals begin at 1pm on Saturday, March 1st.