Sandburg prepared for a challenge

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The swimming success that has become common at Sandburg over the years won’t come easy this season.

And the Eagles are OK with that.

“It’s something we’re not used to, but our expectations are the same and our goals are the same,’’ coach Jim Caliendo said. “It’s going to be interesting to see how these young kids come along.’’

Sandburg has won 10 consecutive conference championships, proof that inexperienced swimmers have blossomed in the past for the Eagles while seniors lived up to expectations and delivered in January and February.

Seniors David Apps, Dean Boures and Zach Roper are expected to be the leaders and get the team through any rough waters early in the season.

“A lot of the pressure has fallen on me to step up this year,’’ Apps said. “It’s a move I knew I was going to have to make. I definitely feel capable that I’m able to do that.’’

“We’re going to be a very young team this year,’’ Caliendo said. “We have a lot of youthful enthusiasm. We’ve got some pretty strong seniors who are going to lead the way.’’

Apps is a returning state qualifier in the 200-yard individual medley (1:56.60) and Boures was among the divers who qualified for last year’s state meet. Roper will be counted on in the 500 and 200 freestyle races.

Caliendo said Apps has been “a very strong leader by example.’’

“His work ethic and his demeanor are probably the best of anybody I’ve ever coached,’’ Caliendo said. “He never gets too up or down. When things are going well, he’s pretty even keel. When he struggles a little, he’s always positive. He’s a great example for our young kids, who are going to struggle.’’

Caliendo also expects big things from sophomore Kevin Stratton, who swam on the SouthWest Suburban Blue champion medley relay last season and was second in the 100 backstroke at the conference meet.

“Kevin’s going to make his name known in due time,’’ Caliendo said.

As for the rest of the lineup, there’s always plenty of potential.

“I’ve seen high school kids come so far in one season if they’re motivated the right way and they stay focused,’’ Caliendo said. “We seem to have a core of kids, albeit some freshmen and sophomores, that have that kind of desire.’’

Boures showed the desire with his commitment to practice over the summer with a goal of making the state finals.

“Diving club, it’s huge,’’ Boures said of working on his mechanics. “Things that top 12 divers have that other divers wouldn’t are improved entries, improve the way you take off the board.’’

Apps wants to get the state qualifying time in the 200 IM before sectionals and also reach the state finals.

“We lost a lot of big names in the past two years,’’ Apps said. “We’re going to have to step up to continue our success.

“I’ve been a part of very successful teams. My senior year, especially, I want to make my team the best that they can be.’’

SouthtownStar’s Top teams

(alphabetical order)

Andrew: Returns most of the talent from second-place sectional squad. Could be Frank Muchna’s best team yet with Kyle Fitzgerald, Michael Tamulonis, Zach Rentner and Danny Cavato leading the way.

Brother Rice: Two-time All-Stater Mitch Strahlman (10th in 200 IM, 12th in 500 freestyle) and state qualifier James Ryan are back. Crusaders hope to get medley relay and other individuals to state meet.

Lincoln-Way North: Seniors Evan Surma (backstroke), Cole Claypool and Bobby Young are returning state qualifiers for the defending sectional and SouthWest Suburban Red champion.

Sandburg: Seniors David Apps, Dean Boures and Zach Roper return for program that won its 10th straight conference title last season. Kevin Stratton (backstroke) is a promising sophomore.

Stagg: Led by sectional champ Zack Amendola (butterfly and backstroke) and Harlan Long. Nick Amendola, Zack’s twin, and Luke Workman also will help Stagg challenge Sandburg in SouthWest Blue.

SouthtownStar’s Top individuals

(alphabetical order)

Zack Amendola, Stagg; David Apps, Sandburg; Dominic Azar, Providence; Matt Blicharski, Reavis; Dean Boures, Sandburg; Joey Cifelli, Marian Catholic; Mitch Easterhouse, Evergreen Park; Kyle Fitzgerald, Andrew; Patrick Hackett, Lincoln-Way East; Harlan Long, Stagg; Jakobi McClellan, Homewood-Flossmoor; James Ryan, Brother Rice; Jake Speechley, Lockport; Mitch Strahlman, Brother Rice; Evan Surma, Lincoln-Way North.

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