By James Kay
East Avenue will be well represented when the Oak Park and River Forest and Fenwick high school boys swimming programs head to the state championships on Feb. 28 at Evanston High School.
The Friars hosted the Huskies and nine other teams on Feb. 22 for the sectional round of the postseason. Both programs blew the other teams out of the water as OPRF placed first (329 points) while Fenwick placed second (274).
"I am really proud of how the kids swam and dove yesterday," said OPRF coach Clyde Lundgren in a phone interview with Wednesday Journal. "That first third of the meet always has a lot going on, and you try to figure out if the kids are on and hitting it. Everyone stepped up, and I still think we have a lot more in us [when they go to state] for Friday."
Fenwick coach Luke McGuire was also pleased with how his team stepped up on the day.
"You know, I was really happy," said McGuire. "We are excited our two relay [teams] got in and both had really good times. We are feeling really good about where we are going into Friday."
OPRF had nine individuals qualify for the state meet. Senior Will Raidt placed first in the 200-yard freestyle (1 minute, 41.58 seconds). Junior Benjamin Guerrero set a pool record in the 200-yard individual medley (1:53.46) and placed first in the 100 breaststroke (58.22).
Juniors Frank Tirone and James Shorney both qualified for state in the 50 freestyle with respective times of 21.15 and 21.73. Junior Diego Pareja (51.16) and senior Evan Burnham (52.53) qualified in the 100 backstroke while freshman Emmett Harmon placed second in the 100-yard butterfly (55.54). Braydon Graves rounded out the individual state qualifiers for OPRF by placing second in the 100-yard breaststroke (58.72).
According to Lundgren, diver Tyler Hoyt also put up a personal-best score of 425.80 and qualified for state as well.
Guerrero was satisfied with how the Huskies took care of business at sectionals.
"One thing that I think separates us is that we grown so close together this past season, and we have been motivating each other every single day than we have in past years," said Guerrero. "I think that has created an interesting team dynamic where we push each other to work harder with the end goal being able to place at state and doing well there."
Fenwick had three individuals qualify for state. Mike Flynn posted a time of 1:42.80 in the 200 freestyle (second place) and swam 4:39.32 in the 500 freestyle, placing first.
His teammate Connor McCarthy placed second in the 200 IM (1:54.94) and placed first in the 100 butterfly (51.25). Senior Dan Bajda had a time of 21.74 in the 50-yard freestyle to qualify as well.
"We weren't too concerned with Mike [Flynn's] events," said McGuire. "Connor [McCarthy's] IM was incredible and so was his 100 fly. We were kind of worried that he might be a little shy of the [state qualifying] time [for the IM], but he was well under it. If he goes at that time or goes faster than that, we are looking at points at the state meet."
OPRF and Fenwick also advanced multiple relay teams to state after their performances last weekend.
The Huskies' 200-yard medley relay team (Pareja, Tirone, Guerrero and Raidt) placed first with a time of 1:32.75. Fenwick's relay team (Pete Buinauskas, Flynn, McCarthy and Bajda) followed with a second place finish and a time of 1:34.59.
The 400-yard free relay teams for Fenwick and OPRF both qualified for state, with Fenwick placing first (3:07.46) and OPRF placed second (3:08.16).
OPRF's 200 free relay team also qualified for the state meet, placing first at 1:25.71.
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