Loaded Neuqua Valley field vying for state berths

SHARE Loaded Neuqua Valley field vying for state berths

In high school aquatic circles it’s generally agreed that the swimming and diving sectional that includes the Naperville schools is the strongest in the state.

This weekend, the sectional returns to its usual home at Neuqua Valley, after a year at Metea Valley, and it again sports a powerful field that includes all the Naperville-area schools, Marmion, IMSA and Oswego Co-op.

“Last year was the first time in many years that the sectional changed locations,” said Neuqua Valley coach Chad Allen. “Our place and Metea Valley are considered the two best pools in the area. They’re both all deep, fast, have eight lanes and plenty of deck space.”

Historically, the Neuqua Valley Sectional produces the most qualifiers for the state meet, which will be held next weekend at New Trier.

“The competition is great,” said Allen. “The team standings don’t really matter that much, nor is it important where you finish in a race. The main focus is on who qualifies for state.”

In most races all six entrants in the final heat make the state cut, and often at least one, and maybe two or three from the penultimate heat also get in.

“There’s always a great deal of excitement,” Allen said. “And there is often a few surprises. This year will be especially exciting because the qualifying times are lower in every event. Swimmers will be more dependent on tapering, shaving and fast suits.”

To illustrate how strong the field is, Allen pointed out that at least one team from the sectional has earned a trophy by finishing in the top three at state almost every year in this century. In recent years, Neuqua Valley in 2008 and Naperville Central in 2010 went on to win the state title.

Last year Naperville North finished second.

While many of the local teams have been hit hard by graduation, Allen said that all have many potential qualifiers and several stars who can score by finishing in the top twelve at state.

The talent at that top level seems evenly distributed among the five Naperville schools.

Adam Stacklin and Michael McWhirter lead a Waubonsie team that is stronger than it has been for a while and which has high hopes to finish in the top ten at state.

“We want to have a full team on deck at state,” said Waubonsie Valley coach Nick Arens. “So we want to make sure that we do everything well in sectionals and show that all the hard work we’ve done this year pays off.”

Other standouts for the Warriors are Stephen Ernst, Bailey York, Nathan Morris, Kelvin Newton and Adam Trotter, plus three members of an exciting freshman class: Michael Schwers, Taggart Lohmann and Kai Motoyama.

Naperville North has rebuilt on the fly this year behind senior stalwarts Sam Hiller and Eric Curia and, while second place at state may not be a possibility, swimmers like Steven Missak, Kevin Kielma, John Moosemiller, Albert Yao, Cameron Snyders and Andrew Rocco have made great strides and are looking to qualify in their individual events and extend the season another week for the relays.

Naperville Central will be sparked by its two fine veterans Connor Lamb and Noah Wood, who will be supported by fast-rising racers Christian May, David Johnson, Scott Piper and a good young supporting cast that promises to make the Redhawks competitive for several years.

“Metea Valley has its strongest team ever,” said Allen. “And it should really do well this weekend.”

Sophomore Matt Salerno is the centerpiece of the Mustangs squad and breaststroker Jordan O’Brien is expected to have a good postseason as well. There are also high expectations for Alex Walter, Alex Gidlow and Trevor Sandberg.

Neuqua Valley, which had a run of top state finishes in recent years, went through some rebuilding last year.

However, this year’s team is making great strides, and Allen is optimistic thanks to the team’s improvement over the second half of the season.

“Our seniors have really improved,” Allen said. “At the beginning it looked like we had potential, but now I believe we can be stronger than last year and we have a shot at qualifying all three relays.”

Drew Dvorchak in the 100 butterfly has the best chance to score, but don’t discount Alex Thoele in the backstroke, Alan Cartwright in the 50 freestyle and Brian Depuy in the 100 freestyle.

Senior Will Russell and sophomores Joe Widuch and Ian Ivkovich are other Wildcats to watch this weekend.

Allen is really high on his freshmen and sophomore classes and he expects the Wildcats right in the thick of things at state again in the future.

Benet will be led by Stephen Spittler, Bram Williams, Patrick Lewellyn, Jonathan DeAsis, Matt Colletti and Mike Cortesio.

A group of strong divers will also be competing for a spot at state. Metea Valley’s Peter Rodriguez and Connor Cast, Naperville Central’s Joe Gucwa and Peter Rusenas, Naperville North’s Thomas Petersen and Waubonsie Valley’s Aleks Zdravev are all among the sectional contenders to qualify for state.

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