Matt Salerno of Metea Valley is going for it this year in the 100 breaststroke.
The Mustangs junior finished sixth in that event at last year’s state meet, and despite making it to the finals, he admitted that he was a little disappointed.
His 56.16 in the Friday prelims was the fastest time of the night, and if he had made that time on Saturday he would have been second in state.
“I guess I was a little too satisfied with the Friday result,” Salerno said. “And I just didn’t get in the right mindset for racing the final.”
This year, however, if he doesn’t take the championship, it won’t be because of his attitude.
“I’m using that experience as a motivator,” Salerno said. “Saturday will be the main focus and I won’t hold back.
“Last summer I went to the Junior Olympics where my goal was to swim fast in the morning and then drop more time in the afternoon. And I was successful. I proved to myself that I can go fast in the prelims and faster in the finals.”
Salerno’s teammate Jordan O’Brien finished 10th at state last year, and the two Mustangs are pushing each other every day at practice and in meets.
“We have a friendly competition going,” Salerno said. “It’s great to have the chance to train against someone at that high level every day. We’re both there to keep each other on our toes.”
Salerno believes that O’Brien can make it into the top six this year, as well.
Return of the Wildcats
Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear. Neuqua Valley could soon be riding again.
After finishing in the top 10 the previous six, the Wildcats have been far out of the money at state and in rebuilding mode the past two years. It was a run that included the 2008 state championship and three additional trophies for finishing in the top three.
And while it may be premature to expect them to make the big move this year, the Wildcats have a sophomore class that’s looking as though there may be more glory days ahead.
Although it’s fairly early in the season and in their careers, five second year swimmers who are starting to make major contributions to the Neuqua cause are impressing older teammates and the Wildcat coaching staff.
Remember the names Matt Ciezczak, Michael Peters, A.J Quinn, Jackson Schroedter and Joe Dalesandro.
All five looked good in helping the Wildcats win the West Chicago Wildcat relays last weekend.
All but Quinn made up the winning frosh-soph 200 free relay that clinched Neuqua’s narrow win over rival Waubonsie.
Just before that race Quinn and Peters joined veterans Ian Ivkovich and Simon Shatinsky on the victorious 200 breaststroke relay.
“They’re all doing well and they have a lot of potential,” Neuqua Valley coach Chad Allen said. “They’re all fighting to make our sectional team, but next year and the year after, they’re going to get that much better.”
Throw those youngsters in with state-scorer Drew Dvorchak, 10th in the 100 fly, and a good cast of returnees and it’s possible the Wildcats could make some noise this year.
“We can surprise some people at the end of the year,” Dvorchak said. “I believe we can make top 10 at state. Those guys have really stepped up. Our Neuqua Valley Invite next weekend could be a stepping stone.”