By Marty Farmer
While perennial state powers Lyons Township and Hinsdale Central dominate the West Suburban Conference Silver Division, the Oak Park and River Forest High School boys swimming team might be the most intriguing story in the league. Competing with an underclassmen-laden roster in 2018, OPRF quickly became a team to watch en route to a 21st place result at the IHSA state meet.
The even more encouraging news is the Huskies are back at full strength this season.
"We did not graduate anybody from last year's team which won the [Fenwick] sectional," OPRF coach Clyde Lundgren said. "Our seniors Alex Pedraza, J.P. Rotatori and Matt Louis are doing a great job in and out of the pool providing leadership and exemplary work habits. Our hopes are pretty high for doing well in the second half of the season and on through sectionals and state.
The Huskies closed out 2018 in style, cruising to the Downers Grove South Invite championship. OPRF scored 539 points, followed by the closely bunched group of Riverside-Brookfield (294), Lake Park (292) and Stagg (290) among the 10 team-field.
The Huskies won six races (3 relays, 3 individual events) and finished second in three other events.
Junior Will Raidt led the way with a pair of individual titles in the 200-yard freestyle (1 minute, 45.26 seconds) and the 100-yard butterfly (53.81 seconds). Raidt is an All-American swimmer who holds the OPRF record in the 200 free.
Sophomore Frank Tirone took the 50-yard freestyle title with a time of 22.65. He placed second in the 100-yard freestyle (49.64), trailing only Wheaton Co-op's Patrick White who touched the wall at 49.45.
Other top swims were turned in by sophomores Benjamin Guerrero (500-yard freestyle; 5:06.49/2nd place) and Diego Pareja (100-yard butterfly; 56.17/3rd), junior Braydon Graves (100-yard breaststroke; 1:04.26; 3rd) and the aforementioned seniors Rotatori (200 free; 1:54.76/5th) and Pedraza (50 free; 23.39/3rd).
Robert Schweig, Thomas Rotatori, Connor Song, Evan Burnham, Finn McMullen, Paolo Miler, Evan Osga and James Shorney make up the rest of a deep roster.
"So far the season has gone as well as could be expected," Lundgren said. "We have been healthy over winter break and the boys have been faithful with their attendance and commitment to training well. I would love to see the group get a little better with our underwater kicks and streamlining of walls."
In addition to winning the Downers Grove South Invite, the Huskies have dual-meet victories over Riverside-Brookfield (119-64) and conference opponents Downers Grove North (145-36) and York (112-74). Fenwick is the only team to beat OPRF (107-78) in a dual meet this season.
Lundgren loves the makeup of his team. In his estimation, the Huskies' intangibles are through the roof.
"Where I'm most impressed with these boys is their maturity and not just where you see it, as in races in meets," he said. "That part is a given because of their year-round swimming experience.
"I'm proud of the way other coaches compliment them for their sportsmanship or if a restaurant owner is glad to have a group of them for a meal. I've also tried to communicate to them how proud I am of their dedication and commitment to the training, the team and each other. It's a privilege to work with these boys."
Since half of the Huskies (8 of 16 swimmers) are underclassmen, the team appears built to last. Providing ideal preparation for the state playoffs, OPRF takes on Hinsdale Central and LTHS this month.
The Huskies hit the road against Hinsdale Central on Friday, Jan. 11 and host LTHS on Friday, Jan. 18 (5 p.m. start times for both). Between these huge conference dual meets, OPRF will compete at the Riverside-Brookfield Invite on Saturday, Jan. 12.
"Our aim for the second half of the season is to rehearse our championship meet swims and fine tune things so we get as many personal bests as possible," Lundgren said. "If we do that, I like our chances to score points at state."
Answer Book 2019
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