February 24, 2009
One of the most wide-open boys swimming state meets takes place this weekend, and area swimmers are sure to leave their mark, whether with individual success or as part of their team’s accomplishments.
Action starts at New Trier on Friday with preliminaries and concludes on Saturday with the finals. Only points scored on Saturday count, though Friday is a mad scramble for contending teams to put as many athletes into the championship finals, which include only the top six times from prelims.
"Coach (Bill Schalz) is always talking to us about how it’s a three-step process," Marmion senior Thomas Delves said. "First you qualify for the meet at sectional, then you have to race on Friday, and then you score on Saturday."
The top teams in the state are defending champion Neuqua Valley and host New Trier and, barring a catastrophe, those teams should be fighting for first- and second-place trophies this weekend. But there are a half-dozen teams, including Marmion and possibly St. Charles North, which will be amongst the competitors for that third trophy.
"We have three swims that didn’t get in, and all three had big time drops," Schalz said. "I’m really happy for these guys. I remember four or five years ago when we were missing cuts left and right. Now they’re doing a great job of racing. We did what we needed to do."
Marmion won the St. Charles East sectional a week ago and most of its swimmers weren’t rested. When the Cadets’ taper kicks in this week, they are sure to see some large time drops.
On paper, Marmion’s best-seeded athlete is senior Tyler Capen, who is fourth-fastest in the 100 butterfly. Austin Cox is 10th-fastest in the same event. But Schalz figures that when his team’s taper takes full effect, his team will score more than the 55 points it has on the pre-meet "psych sheet."
"The tapered kids we had at the sectional did really well," Schalz said. "That’s a great omen for next week. Those guys are on the same taper but a week later."
Pre-meet scoring based on sectional performances shows Neuqua Valley winning the meet with 121 points and Fenwick finishing second with 102. St. Charles North is third and Marmion is sixth. But given the tightness of the meet, there could be significant movement as the points become official this weekend.
"It was a great sectional meet for us," St. Charles North coach Rob Rooney said. "Breaking three pool records and winning five races, that’s huge. If you’d have told me we’d have done that a week ago, I would have said ’that’s not going to happen.’ But they did an awesome job with it."
St. Charles North has Nick Smith swimming this weekend as the top seed in the 50-yard freestyle and the 100 freestyle.
"We did a good job at the sectional," Rooney said. "We need to keep ourselves focused and swim faster next week."
St. Charles North mixed technology with the tapering process at the sectional meet. While the swimmers weren’t rested, they did put on fast suits and the response was a drop in time.
"Suits have obviously changed the sport of swimming in the last six months," Rooney said. "I think it bodes well for us doing that."
St. Charles East’s top-seeded swimmer is senior Ken Tiltges, who is third-fastest in the 100 breaststroke. He and Adam Carnell lead a charge for state points that includes the school’s 400 freestyle relay.
"We’d always like to be in the Top 10," St. Charles East coach Joe Cabel said. "That’s the only way we can think. We’ll see what the points take to get there."
There are a number of schools in the state that do not have swim teams but which have athletes who represent their schools in state competition. Locally, Batavia and Kaneland are two such schools that have state qualifiers.
Batavia senior Albert Roth qualified in the 200 individual medley and the 100 butterfly. Where in past years Roth has held his taper for important club meets that take place after the state meet, this year, he timed his taper to kick in for this weekend’s finals.
"I had a lot of recruiting trips early in the season and that kind of messed up my practice routine," Roth said. "I started feeling good again three or four months ago. Now I’m psyched. I didn’t feel awesome (at the sectional.) That’s because I’m in the middle of the taper and you never feel awesome."
Roth said the decision to focus on the state meet was made months ago in conjunction with his Academy Bullets coaches.
"It’s great," Roth said. "This is the one time of the year people around my school actually care about swimming, though I’m the only one."
Roth said he has some big plans for this weekend. He is seeded 11th-fastest in the 200 IM and 17th-fastest in the 100 butterfly.
"In the 200 IM, I’m hoping for a 1:53," Roth said. "In the 100 fly, I’m going to go for the big one and go for a 49."
Kaneland’s one-man team at state is sophomore Grant Alef, who swims in the 500 freestyle and the 100 backstroke. He is 16th-fastest in the 500 free and the 13th-fastest qualifier in the backstroke. Alef qualified for the state meet as a freshman.
"It’s a lot easier this time around," Alef said. "I know what I’m doing and I know how to prepare."
Alef has also set his taper to take effect for the state meet.
"I’m going to go out to try to go to state and do phenomenal - that’s my goal," Alef said.
Alef has grown significantly since his freshman year, which has caused him to make some changes in the way in which he moves himself through the water.
"You have to change the number of strokes you take," Alef said. "You’ve got more room to play with at the wall."