The Libertyville boys swimming team employed a new-look lineup for its 200-yard freestyle relay at the North Suburban Conference meet, and the result was a first-place finish.
Fast forward one week to Saturday’s Vernon Hills Sectional, and the same foursome — sophomore Justin Fu, junior Atticus Rush, senior Eric Boynton and junior Bobby Snader — was a winner again, qualifying for the state meet in 1 minute, 26.94 seconds.
“We weren’t exactly sure we’d make it to state,” said Boynton, who narrowly missed the state cut in the 50 free, placing third in 22.09. “But we didn’t have a range where we expected our time to be at. We’re not a group who’s swam together a lot, so we had to kick it up a notch. Personally, I wanted to go to state on this relay — we were doing it for each other as much as ourselves — and we were able to get together and say, ‘Let’s do this.’ ”
The state meet will be held at New Trier Friday and Saturday.
Libertyville coach Bob Groseth said that whatever the quartet accomplished in the sectional was considered a bonus.
“Winning at the conference meet — their first time together — gave them a lot of confidence, and they wanted to repeat that effort,” Groseth said. “And they did a nice job.”
Fu and Rush also helped the Wildcats’ 400 free relay (with junior Alex Snarski and sophomore Matt Harrington) make state, finishing second in a school-record 3:09.06. In addition, Fu, Snader, Snarski and Harrington combined to advance in the 200 medley relay, finishing first in 1:35.39.
Snarski also advanced in the 100 backstroke, placing first in a pool-record 50.04. That surpassed the previous mark of 50.56, established by Olympic gold medalist Matt Grevers of Lake Forest in 2003.
Lake Forest won the sectional with 263 points. Libertyville was second with 256 points.
Make an impact
He doesn’t have the resume of superstar teammate Connor Black, but senior Jason Begrowicz has come a long way in two seasons with Mundelein’s varsity swim team.
Especially considering that Begrowicz entered the program as a water polo player with no previous experience on a swim team.
“He wasn’t a swimmer coming in as a freshman, but he’s gotten better and better, and this year he’s been coming into his own,” Mundelein coach Rahul Sethna said. “He’s become a swimmer. When you don’t come in with the (club) background, you don’t usually make an impact. But he’s done a great job for us.”
Begrowicz finished ninth in the 200-yard freestyle (1 minute, 55.25 seconds) at the Vernon Hills Sectional on Saturday, above the state cut of 1:45.39. He was fifth in the 500 free (5:13.44), with the cut to advance at 4:47.49.
“Swimming is more of a mental thing than water polo. You’re thinking about your finishing time, so you have to be in the zone,” Begrowicz said. “Water polo is more social during a match … more communication with other guys. Swimming is all self-motivation, though it helps when others are cheering you on from the sidelines.
“I like doing both. There’s different goals to reach with each sport, and you get the best of both worlds in the pool.”
Black made state — which will be held at New Trier Friday and Saturday — in the 50 free (20.43) eclipsing his own pool record of 20.60 set a year ago. He also advanced in the 100 butterfly, swimming a pool-record 49.29. Black helped the 200 medley relay (with juniors Nick Arendt and Aryton Kasemets and senior Jason Rehor) advance in 1:38.19.
Stick with it
Carmel doesn’t have a full boys swimming team, but it was represented at the Vernon Hills Sectional by a quintet of athletes.
One was senior Peter Alnajjar, who is a member of the Mundelein Mustangs Swim Club. Carmel swimmers compete with their club teams rather than as part of a school group during the regular season, though Carmel sponsored Saturday’s sectional trip.
“As a freshman, I didn’t know there wasn’t a team,” Alnajjar said. “But I still wanted to represent my school.”
Dan Christian, who served as Carmel’s coach on Saturday, said that he’s seen other student-athletes give up on swimming when there’s no full team at their school.
“So for Peter to stick with it this long says a lot about his character and dedication to the sport,” Christian said.
Alnajjar was joined by freshmen Ryan Novak, Carlos Gonzalez, James Tabat and Jimmy Dooley. Alnajjar did not qualify for the state meet in any events, finishing eighth in the 100-yard freestyle in 51.45 seconds and eighth in the 100 backstroke in 57.41.
He also missed out in the 200 medley relay (with Gonzalez, Tabat and Novak) and as part of the 400 free relay (with Novak, Tabat and Dooley).