Daily Herald Article about DCST Swimmer Grant Alef
Marmion just misses sectional title

When looked at from any angle, there really wasn't anything wrong with Marmion's performance at Saturday's St. Charles East boys swimming sectional.

Despite not having any diving entries, the Cadets only finished second by 1 point to Wheaton Warrenville South. Marmion takes a solid contingent of 3 relays and 6 individual entries to next week's state meet at Evanston.

But the Cadets could also point to a string of cases where a terrific time drop brought a swimmer just to the brink of qualification and not all the way to the state meet - a series of moments that would have taken a very good Saturday and made it stellar.

"We swam well," Marmion coach Bill Schalz said. "We just didn't get a lot of people qualified, so it's a kind of frustrating day. We had some people get great big swims and not make it. We had some people make mistakes and not make it. But that's the nature of this meet - you have to get up and swim today."

Marmion started the meet with a strong 200-yard medley relay, which finished second to DeKalb.Andy Healy, Matt Pircon, Alex Purcell and Ben Kanute comprised that relay, and each of those swimmers also qualified in individual events: Pircon in the 50 freestyle and 100 breaststroke; Healy in the 100 butterfly; Purcell in the 100 butterfly and Kanute in the 500 freestyle.

Robert Ramoska completed the Cadets qualifiers when he advanced in the 200 freestyle.

"We swam well and it's hard to be upset," Schalz said. "I just thought we had the opportunity to get a lot more cuts than we did today, that's all."

Marmion was edged 198-197 in the battle for the team title. St. Charles North finished on 195 points in one of the closest sectional races in recent memory. The North Stars take all 3 relays and 5 individual entries to the state meet.

Among those heading to Evanston is junior Andy Preusse, who qualified in the 50 freestyle and the 100 backstroke.

"I'm just honored to be compared to all of the guys who are going," Preusse said. "I'm not one of the guys who commits to all the work in the summer. To be with a bunch of guys who work extremely hard and put in the amount of time that they do is extremely gratifying."

Preusse qualified as a relay swimmer as a sophomore but will make his first trip in an individual race this year. He is joined by Chris Dieter, who won the 200 freestyle and qualified in the 500 freestyle and 500 freestyle qualifier Kyle Gannon.

"I felt we had a great meet today," Preusse said. "We've got the freshmen and sophomores who made huge contributions. They're going to be something when I graduate and for years beyond that."

Host St. Charles East advanced its 400 freestyle relay and 7 individual entries. In addition to double-event qualifiers Shane Seuschek (200 freestyle, 100 freestyle) and Shaun Seuschek (200 IM, 100 butterfly), the Saints qualified freshmen TJ Bindseil and Nick Watts in the 500 freestyle and junior Corey Mondul in the 100 breaststroke.

Shaun Seuschek won the 100 butterfly and Shane Seuschek was the sectional champion in the 100 freestyle. Mondul's breaststroke performance made him a first-time qualifier in his third sectional appearance.

"It really hasn't hit me yet," Mondul said. "I looked up and saw the time and realized I'd qualified. I can't even talk right now, knowing that all the work came down to this."

Mondul has been to the state meet as an alternate. While he said "that was fun" to his previous on-deck experience, being able to compete will be something completely different.

"This time, I hope to get a little different perspective," Mondul said. "I'm really looking forward to it. I experienced the atmosphere the past two years and I finally get to swim in it."

Kaneland's Grant Alef is one of those swimmers who gets to compete for his school for two weekends a year. The IHSA allows swimmers for schools which do not have teams to compete in the state sectional and the state meet, if they qualify.

Alef, a junior, qualified for his third straight state meet when he qualified in the 500 freestyle and the 100 backstroke. He finished second in the 500 free and was third in the backstroke.

"I felt pretty good," Alef said. "I haven't fully been winding down my practices to be at my peak yet, but I'll get there."

Alef admitted the nervousness he experienced as a freshman has evaporated. He came desperately close to scoring in the state meet a year ago. He was 15th in the prelims of the 500 free and 14th in the backstroke. The Top 12 return on Saturday and swim in finals.

"I want to do better than I did this weekend," Alef said. "These weren't the greatest times, though they were an improvement on what I've been doing in the season. I've just got to get out there and swim."

Alef said that although the club meets in which he's competed are important, there is something special to the state meet.

"You can't match the intensity of the state high school meet," Alef said. "I've been to nationals and international grand prix meets, but nothing is as intense as that. The three-sided seating and everyone yelling - it's crazy."

Geneva sophomore Joe Hollman is one of those swimmers who will get to experience that on-deck atmosphere for the first time. Hollman qualified in the 200 freestyle.

The Vikings' state meet history is limited, but Geneva has had a scoring individual before: Jay Walkington finished fifth in the 100 freestyle and the 50 freestyle in 1993.

"It feels great to qualify," Hollman said. "Last year we only had 2 guys in the sectional. This year we had more, so we were able to put together a relay. It feels like more of a team."

By Darryl Mellema | Daily Herald Correspondent