February 20, 2009
What water there is to be found at Batavia and Kaneland high schools tends to come out of sinks or drinking fountains.
It most certainly does not come in 25-yard increments separated by lane markers.
But the lack of a swimming pool at either high school hasn't stopped students from swimming. And it hasn't stopped the Bulldogs nor the Knights from having representation at this weekend's boys state meet in Evanston.
Batavia junior Albert Roth qualified in the 200-yard individual medley as well as the 100 butterfly. He is tied for the 14th-fastest time in the butterfly and has an outside chance of qualifying for Saturday's finals.
Kaneland freshman Grant Alef qualified in the 500 freestyle and the 100 backstroke, making him one of less than two-dozen of freshman state qualifiers.
Both have the same kind of aspirations as those swimmers whose seasons started back in November.
"I just want to get out there and swim my best at the state meet," Alef said.
Roth competed as part of a three-man Batavia team on Saturday. A junior, Roth will be the only athlete sporting Bulldogs colors on-deck this weekend in Evanston.
"I was really worried," Roth said. "I really expected to get both of my cuts. But late in the week, I caught the stomach flu and I was sick off on (Friday.) But I ended up doing it and I'm really happy."
Swimmers like Roth and Alef work year-round with their club teams. Both attend schools in the Western Sun Conference, and none of those schools compete in boys swimming.
But one weekend a year, a handful of athletes from similar schools find themselves on-deck for IHSA sectional meets.
"It's a really cool experience," Alef said. "It's a nice twist to a meet."
As the high school season comprises eight days for teams without a regular-season team, most swimmers focus on the big club meets rather than the sectional or state meet. Roth said he his particular focus was on the junior-national meet that takes place March 18-22 in Orlando.
"This was going to be just another meet for me," Roth said. "But I still wanted to qualify for state. My freshman year, I had pneumonia. Last year, there was a mix-up and we weren't even entered in the meet. This will be my first time going to the state meet, and I wanted to go, rested or not."
While Roth said he still doesn't intend to rest any for the state meet, he will make some adjustments in an attempt to go faster.
"I think that with the atmosphere and when I throw on a Fastskin, I should be near my best times," Roth said. "Even being un-tapered, it shouldn't matter. I should be able to pump myself up."
Roth's sister Catrina was the first Batavia swimmer to qualify for the state finals and she was twice a medalist in the 100 backstroke.
"She was really scared for me too," Albert Roth said. "We've been texting each other. She's swimming the Big East championships next weekend."
Now a junior at Syracuse, Catrina Roth is about to see her swim career end. Syracuse is dropping its men's and women's swim teams at the end of this season in a Title IX-related restructuring.
Roth said his parents will be heading to New York to watch Catrina's final conference meet.
"I feel really bad for her," Albert Roth said.
Albert Roth certainly won't be alone on-deck, however. He competes with the Academy Bullets during the club season, and the majority of that teams swims for Marmion. Roth said he will sit near the Cadets team on-deck at the state finals.
"Almost all these guys over here on the Marmion team, I swim with them on my club team," Roth said. "They're almost like a team for me, cheering for me. I still feel very supported."
For Alef, the sectional was his first afternoon of competition in a high school setting.
"It's a really cool experience," Alef said. "I'm really excited that I did really well. I'm proud of myself."
Alef will also have a teammate on-deck. He swims with the DeKalb County Swim Team, and DeKalb qualified David Gordon for the state meet.
"I've gotten to know them and they're all good friends," Alef said.
Alef continues a Kaneland tradition that started the last two years with Justin Pattermann's attendance at the state meet. Alef trains year-round with the DeKalb and Sycamore swimmers.
Like Roth, Alef hadn't planned to rest at all heading into the sectional. But he got some rest anyway.
"I dislocated my kneecap about three weeks ago," Alef said. "I made a pretty amazing comeback."
Both Roth and Alef will be back next year and will have the experience of competing in at least one day's competition at the state meet. And the lack of a pool at their respective schools can't dampen their anticipation in heading to Evanston on Friday.