Celebrating Stagg’s well-earned conference win at the SouthWest Suburban Blue meet two weeks ago, junior Evan Johnson enjoyed the post-meet festivities.
Enjoyed it too much maybe. Jumping into the pool afterward with his toes pointed down, Johnson broke his right foot.
Two weeks since sustaining the injury, Johnson was back with his team Saturday, winning two individual events and swimming on two championship relays as Stagg cruised to victory at the Sandburg Sectional.
“Everyone has just been training like crazy,” Johnson said. “It’s just amazing to see the results from our taper week. It’s tough swimming through (the injury), but you have to learn to swim with it.”
Winning its first sectional title since 2011, Stagg piled up 296 points to beat Brother Rice (247) and host Sandburg (234).
All championship swimmers and anyone finishing their race under a state-qualifying time advanced to next week’s state meet at Evanston.
Swimming through the pain, Johnson won both the 50-yard (21.68) and 100-yard freestyle (47.99). His teammate and fellow junior Zackary Amendola was also a two-event winner, claiming the 100-yard butterfly (51.36) and the 100-yard backstroke (51.97).
“We won sectional as a team, and that’s all you can ask for,” Amendola said with a smile. “We had some great competition, and we dropped some huge times. Our times were okay, but I think you’ll see some different times next week at state.”
Other champions for Stagg included the 400-yard freestyle relay (3:14.21) and Harlan Long in the 200-yard freestyle (1:45.55). Others advancing with state-qualifying cuts were the 200-yard medley relay (2nd, 1:36.85), Lucas Smiarowski in the 200-yard individual medley (2nd, 1:56.12) and 500-yard freestyle (2nd, 4:43.38) and Long in the 100-yard breaststroke (1:00.29).
Leading second-place Brother Rice, senior Mitch Strahlman was a two-time winner, claiming the 200-yard individual medley (1:55.08) and the 500-yard freestyle (4:40.93).
Looking to improve on last season’s 12th-place finish at state in the 500, Strahlman won’t be alone, a strong Crusader contingent advancing with him. The senior will be joined by the championship 200-yard medley relay (1:36.11), cutting three-plus seconds off its seed time, first-place finisher James Ryan in the 100-yard breaststroke (58.65) and Solomon Gienosky in the 100-yard backstroke (3rd, 53.93).
“The medley relay was awesome, and I’m kind of a quiet kid, but I was so thrilled when we won that,” Strahlman said. “I’m so proud of the guys. I was going crazy. Brother Rice swimming gets looked over sometimes, and that was our motivation practicing.”
Third-place Sandburg was led by divers Dean Boures (1st, 444.15 points) and Bret Reid (2nd, 380.25), Kevin Stratton in the 100-yard backstroke (52.68), and David Apps in the 200-yard IM (3rd, 1:57.15).
In fourth-place, Lockport (207 points) was paced by the 200-yard freestyle relay (1st, 1:28.19) and Matt Cavanaugh in the 50-yard freestyle (2nd, 21.89, .01 under the state cut).
Joliet Central’s Youjia Wang advances to state in the 100-yard breaststroke (1:00.22), finishing second.