For St. Charles North’s qualifiers for Friday and Saturday’s IHSA Boys Swimming Championships, the question is to what extent will history repeat itself.
The North Stars — winners of eight straight sectional titles — have placed anywhere from seventh to fourth four times within the last seven state meets. It’s safe to say they’re pretty familiar with success and in the case of three current members, it’s also familial.
When it comes to Friday’s prelims or Saturday’s finals at Winnetka’s New Trier Pool, coach Rob Rooney understandably isn’t ready to tip his hand as to the exact make-up of the foursomes who will compete in three relay finals.
However, three candidates — Kyle Gannon, David Chokran, and Stephan Hutchinson — could be trying to upstage an older sister since the 2009-10 champions for the 2009-10 girls meet featured Angie Chokran, Taylor Gannon, and Kirsten Hutchinson.
“That was my first big experience with the state meet, seeing my sister go out and win (the 200 medley relay) her senior year,” Gannon noted. “Being my last (prep) meet, I learned from her to the most important thing is to enjoy the experience and swim real fast.”
“I never made it to her state meets,” Chokran admitted. “But she’s told me to enjoy every minute because it’ll go real fast. I know this is where all of the year’s hard work has to pay off.”
“My sister told me not to get overwhelmed by the atmosphere and to swim hard but have fun,” Hutchinson said.
Having parents and siblings who’ve been through it before is an advantage in Rooney’s opinion as is the desire he senses in his qualifiers which also include Spencer Gray, Nick Kowaleski, Austin Stepella, and Kevin Leary.
“I believe they’re very hungry to prove themselves. We had a great season a year ago, but didn’t quite swim up to our potential, so they have an extra desire to excel,” Rooney noted. “Plus the entire group is extremely close friends who’ve been competing together for a long time, so they not only encourage each but really push each other.”
“The past week we cut back on yardage, putting a little more emphasis on quality speed with a little attention to mechanics,” Rooney said. “At this point, if we tweaked anything it’s the mind; that ability to believe in themselves and to have the confidence that they’ve done everything right in order to be at their best.”
Exactly how well the swimmers have tapered and prepared mentally is why sectional results are simply a guide, but no guarantee as to final placement.
Based on sectional results, Gannon has the fifth fastest time (1:41.24) coming into the meet for the 200 freestyle and the Iowa-bound senior has the fourth-best for the 500 free (4:36.28) with teammate Gray ninth (4:39.11).
Cross-town rival St. Charles East’s contingent includes Will Shanel, Alec Carnel, TJ Bindseil, Austin Muelschlegel, Tyler Nunnery, and Nick Wellman, along with diver Max Schmitt. Shanel rates fifth for the 200 IM (1:54.02) and combined with Nunnery, Carnel and Bindseil to give the Saints the fourth fastest 200 free relay qualifier (1:26.00).
Advancing from the same sectional meet out of the Elgin area is a trio from South Elgin led by Nick Hasemann along with Alex Duff and Taylor Headley. Hasemann, who placed seventh a year ago in the 200 free and fourth in the 100 backstroke, comes in with the third-best clockings for the 200 free (1:41.09) and 100 back (50:52).
Another area contingent comes from Jacobs thanks to the Golden Eagles’ efforts in the Barrington Sectional. Junior Alex Reinbrecht boasts the sixth-best time in the 500 free (4:37.47) after winning that event in Barrington and also qualifying in the 200 free with a third-place (1:42.98) showing. Senior teammate Josh DiDina – who plans to swim for South Dakota State — advanced to Winnetka taking second in the 100 breaststroke (:59.41) and third in the 200 IM (1:58.02).
“Both guys competed last year and having been there gives them the proper perspective on the crowd and what to expect poolside,” Jacobs coach Rick Andresen insisted. “Both are already above their times from last year, but not having rested or shaved, I believe they’ve got a little extra in the tank for this weekend.”
Completing the list of area hopefuls is Huntley’s Matthew Haage, who became the third-year program’s first-ever state qualifier when he placed second in the 50 free (:21.90) at St. Charles.