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Daily Herald Article About DCST Swimmer Grant Alef
By Darryl Mellema

Event by event during Saturday’s state finals, St. Charles North’s boys swim team went about improving on its placings from this year’s prelims. By the time the final event was over, the North Stars had themselves a fifth-place finish and re-established themselves as one of the top teams in the state.

“This meet showed you how much parity there is in the state, other than, of course, New Trier,” St. Charles North coach Rob Rooney said. “There are a number of great programs out there. And there are a lot of kids in this program who have trained well and stepped up to do some awesome things. I’m proud of the boys for what they did this year.”

 

The North Stars last placed in the top five in 2008, when they were fourth. In 2007, St. Charles North recorded a fifth-place finish. With a young squad that only graduates one senior from its state team, the future seems bright for Rooney’s team.

“We’re setting the tone for next year,” Rooney said. “This isn’t going have be rebuilt. This is going to be a ‘reload’ for us. We have a couple of guys who sat at home this weekend, not part of this, who will be huge contributors next year. We’ve got kids like Spencer Gray who got experience in this meet this year. We’ve got a bright future.”

But the present was solid as well. Chris Dieter finished fourth in the 200-yard freestyle and was sixth in the 100 freestyle.

“It’s a whole new environment,” Dieter said. “The first day, you make it, but the second day is where the big dogs play. By making it into the top six, coming out of nowhere — last year I didn’t make any (finals.) I can’t be angry with that. I’ve been so gracious with how I’ve been swimming.”

A year ago, St. Charles North rested its swimmers for the sectional meet and this year, the bulk of the state team timed its taper for the state meet. This year, the North Stars headed to New Trier as the top-ranked team on the pre-meet “psych sheet” — in which events are scored based on sectional performances.

The psych sheet almost never accurately predicts a state champion, though it usually shows which are the strong teams. And in that, the sheet was spot-on in showing that the North Stars were a force again.

“The team energy’s been extremely high,” Dieter said. “I think it’s about the highest it’s been all season.”

The North Stars lose Andrew Preusse, who finished eighth in the 50 freestyle and who swam on the team’s 200 medley relay, which finished seventh and the 200 freestyle relay, which was eighth. Kyle Passini also graduates, and he swam on relays for the North Stars on Saturday, including the meet-ending 400 freestyle relay, which took sixth. Justin Jacobson, a further senior, swam on the 200 medley relay.

But that means a return next year for sophomore Kyle Gannon, who was eighth in the 500 freestyle, junior Joey Chokran, who was 11th in the 100 breaststroke and relay swimmer Nick Kowaleski along with all those alternates who sat and watched the meet from the on-deck bleachers.

St. Charles East scored points in two events through junior Shawn Seuschek, who placed 11th in the 200 individual medley and 11th in the 100 butterfly.

“This was really cool, being able to come back,” Seuschek said. “Moving up in the butterfly from last to 11th was pretty cool. And getting points (for the team) is awesome, because we didn’t get any last year. I’m happy I was able to come back because that hadn’t happened before.”

The Saints were very young this year, and are building toward the future. One step in that process was a solid dual-meet record this winter. Seuschek said the future looks strong for his school’s program.

“Everyone will have the experience and be able to get back and not only get their best times but try to get top 12 so we can score more points,” Seuschek said. “We’ll work harder, train harder, be faster and put our minds to swimming.”

One positive is that the Saints will have their own pool again next fall. Reconstruction work on the Norris Center pool is finished, the pool has been filled and it should be usable through water polo season. Certainly it will be more than ready for the 2011-12 swim seasons, bringing and end to the pool-sharing between St. Charles North and St. Charles East.

Marmion scored points when Ben Kanute dropped well over a second from his prelim time and finished placed 10th in the 500-yard freestyle.

“I felt a lot better than yesterday,” Kanute said. “It still hurt about the same, but I think I got a little more pumped because it was finals. It was a great race.”

Kanute’s career ended with his race, but he savored his long individual finals medal.

“It’s really impressive,” Kanute said. “All of these guys swim all year-round and they’re working really hard. I’m lucky to get here because I do triathlons all year. It’s a great atmosphere here, with everyone getting up and cheering.”

While Kanute leaves the Cadets program, he said the future is bright for a team that had a large number of underclassmen on-deck this weekend.

“We might not have as many points this year, but we the team was young this year and they should be good in the next few years,” Kanute said. “That’s why (Cadets coach Bill Schalz) brings as many alternates as he can. He wants them to experience the atmosphere and see what it’s like. If you look at our relays, we had sophomores and juniors with just one or two seniors. They’re really setting up for next year.”

Grant Alef’s Kaneland swimming career encompassed just eight weeks through his four years in high school. But he more than made the most of that time. Alef capped his career when he swam 51.18 and took fifth in the 100 backstroke.

“Each year has been a little better than the last,” Alef said. “Today was the fastest backstroke I’ve ever done, one one-hundredth of a second. To go out in my senior year, in my last year as a high school swimmer and wear a fifth-place medal, I’m happy with that.”

Thanks to his sixth-best time in Friday’s prelims, Alef was assured of a top six finish. But he dropped time in the finals and moved up to fifth place.

Some other things have changed as well. Although Kaneland does not have a pool or a competitive team during the season, Alef’s performances have helped put the school on the map in the sport since 2008, when he qualified for the state finals as a freshman.

“My aunt and uncle are in the stands with my little cousins,” Alef said. “My entire family’s here and dad’s on-deck. People were following up with me during the week, and to get that recognition is very nice.”