LINCOLNSHIRE – The most decorated athlete at the Stevenson Boys Swimming and Diving Sectional on Saturday didn’t even capture a state berth.
Stevenson sophomore Olin Kusevskis pinned the stray top-six medals – 17 in all, earned by his teammates – to his Patriots parka throughout the meet in Lincolnshire.
“Early in the meet I noticed a couple of medals on a bench,” said Kusevskis, who found room on the parka to fasten his medal for taking fifth in the 500-yard freestyle (non-state qualifying 4:52.31). “I grabbed them and stuck them to my parka. It got to the point where people kept coming up to me to salute me, because of all the medals I was wearing.
“I saluted back and told them, ‘At ease.’ "
Stevenson’s Patriots couldn’t relax. They were too busy winning races and climbing the awards podium. Coach Doug Lillydahl’s marvelous crew touched first in seven events, including all three relays, amassed a total of 17 state berths and tallied 316 points to claim the team title.
Runner-up Cary-Grove co-op finished with 187 points, followed by Barrington (183), Mundelein (171), Vernon Hills (165), Huntley (84), Warren (68) and Libertyville (66).
“One of our best swimmers didn’t qualify in an early race,” said Lillydahl, named sectional coach of the year. “I’m a Milwaukee Bucks fan. Giannis Antetokounmpo is a great player, but he missed 40% of his free throws last year. He stayed positive after his misses. Teammates picked him up and they won a championship.
“You saw that from our swimmers today.”
Teams and individuals vie for state championships next weekend at the FMC Natatorium in Westmont.
Patriots sophomore Colin Zhang set the pool record in the 200 individual medley (1:52.17) Saturday, topped the field in the 100 breaststroke (57.24) and swam on a pair of first-place relays (200 medley, 200 free). Michael Wywrocki, Josh Song and David Kohan joined him on the 200 medley (1:32.38), and Kohan, Jack Curtin and Brandon Xiong swam the other legs on the 200-free unit (1:24.81).
Kohan, Xiong, Song and Curtin combined for an electric 3:07.18 to take gold in the 400 free relay.
Cary-Grove senior Kameron Fadden added a week to his season by qualifying for state in the 50 free (4th place, 21.73) and as a member of 200-medley (2nd, 1:34.24) and 400-free (3rd, 3:10.66) relays.
“That 50 free, by Kameron ... impressive,” C-G coach Scott Lattyak said. “A race like that, you have to have the mentality of, ‘Win before you swim.’ In Kameron’s case, his ‘win’ was qualifying for state.”
C-G’s Ben Castro advanced to state in the 100 butterfly (3rd, 50.1), the 200 IM (5th, 1:55.72) and two relays (200 medley, 400 free). Sophomore Drew Watson joined Fadden and Castro on the relays and earned state berths in the 100 backstroke (2nd, 51.33) and 200 IM (2nd, 1:54.59).
Barrington received a 1-2 finish in the 500 free from freshman Lucas Bucaro (4:36.72) and sophomore Rylan Anselm (4:39.24) and another championship effort from USC-bound Griffin O’Leary in the 100 back (49.54).
“Griffin isn’t just physically gifted, he’s also incredibly tough mentally,” Broncos coach John Valentine said.
Mundelein’s top three swimmers – seniors Omar Fathallah, Aaron Anastos and Michael Romero – swam in all three relays, preventing each from competing in two individual events. But it paid off, with qualifying times in all three: 1:35.93 in the 200 medley; 1:26.64 in the 200 free; and 3:08.48 in the 400 free). Fathallah also zipped to first in the 100 free (46.62).
The rest of the sectional champions: Warren’s Blake Vander-Jeugdt (diving, 555.7); Lake Zurich’s Daniel Khmara (200 free, 1:42.02); Xiong (50 free, 21.1); Song (100 fly, 49.26) and Huntley’s Gavin Heard, who swam faster than his seed time in each of the four Athletes With Disabilities events. Heard won the 200 free (2:04.11), 50 free (25.41), 100 free (55.17) and 100 breaststroke (1:11.82).
Other noteworthy medalists: Grant’s Charlie Hamann (2nd, 100 breaststroke, 58.66); Stevenson’s Jack White (2nd, diving, 553.35); Vernon Hills’ Ethan Phua (4th, 200 IM, 1:55.02); Huntley’s Ben Rocks (4th, 100 free, 46.97); and Libertyville’s Edward Steward (6th, 100 fly, 51.33).
Other state-qualifying relay members included C-G’s Kasparas Venslauskas and Dexter Zielinski; Barrington’s Dylan Guo; and Mundelein’s Edwin Serrano, Cameron Gilbert and Matthew Willis.
Warren’s Kyle Ehemann was named sectional diving coach of the year.