Boys Swim and Dive reaches their top twenty goal

In rebuilding year, boys still finish in 18th place at state meet

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Boys Swim and Dive reaches their top twenty goal

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The boys swimming and diving team finished 18th in the state meet held at the New Trier Natatorium on Feb. 22 and Feb. 23.

St. Charles North won the meet with a total of 141 points while Neuqua Valley and Waubonsie Valley finished directly behind them with 112 and 99 points respectively. New Trier finished, tied for 18th with Marmion Academy and Homewood-Flossmoor by virtue of their sixteen points, six of which came from their 10th place finish 200 yard freestyle relay finals swam by junior Pearce Bailey, senior Topher Shepherd, junior Marc Hagist, and senior Nick Torre.

“The time was really good for us, but the most important thing [was] that we tried our hardest and, because of that, I [was] really happy about [that] time, too,” said Hagist.

The remaining 10 points were scored by Bailey, who led the team with four qualifications for preliminary meets. He finished 6th in the 50 yard freestyle final after an 8th place finish in last year’s final, 12th in the 100 yard freestyle final, and recorded the team’s best 50 yard split in the 200 yard relay final at 20.66 seconds.

“My times definitely improved over the course of the season as I got stronger, especially in the 50 freestyle,” said Bailey.

The team’s only diving participant was freshman John Ervin. Ervin, a rare freshman participant, placed 19th out of 32 divers in the preliminaries by scoring 191.70 points, falling 6.15 points short of qualifying for the semifinals.

Despite Ervin’s preliminary elimination, head diving coach Bruce Kimball noticed considerable improvement from his reliable freshman during the season.

“I think that [Ervin’s] growth through the season was tremendous,” said Kimball, “He was one of the kids with a great attitude and [he always had] a willingness to try new [dives].”

Despite failing to capture a 25th state title, the team achieved their preseason goal of a top 20 finish at state.

“We set a goal at the beginning of the year to be in the top 20 at the state meet, so overall it was a good year,” said head swimming coach Josh Runkle. “I told the [swimmers] at the state meet that I was [just] as proud of this [team] as the team that won the state meet last year.”

Although a top 20 finish in the state meet seems like a low expectation to set for a team that was ranked 5th in the nation twelve months ago, half of the players from last season’s state title-winning team graduated, which left the varsity team with many inexperienced swimmers taking their places, including eleven freshmen.

“It was a growing year for a lot of [swimmers]. A lot of them had to step into bigger roles than they were accustomed to,” said Runkle.

The diving team faced a similar dilemma as they also lost many of their best divers to graduation prior to the start of the season. The roster consisted of a group of players that lacked experience, but had plenty of desire to improve.

“The team was pretty new to diving this year from [top to bottom],” said Kimball. “It took a few weeks for them to [learn enough dives to compete in a six dive competition], but it was impressive [to see the team’s] attitude and effort towards trying to improve.”

Despite having many new faces on varsity this season, the swimming and diving team still finished 3rd in the conference meet on Feb. 9 and won the sectional title on Feb. 16.        

These accomplishments, as well as the top 20 finish in the state meet, left Shepherd satisfied as he concluded his fourth season on varsity swimming.

“This year was definitely a rebuilding year, so, all things considered, we did really well,” said Shepherd.

Although this season lacked the typical results of swimming and diving teams past, the team’s experienced players continued the tradition of encouraging locker room chemistry.

Runkle highlighted Bailey, senior Ben Ketchum, junior Sam Dienstag, Torre, Hagist, and Shepherd among others for taking leadership roles and mentoring their younger teammates.

Because of the positive environment that the returning swimmers created, the transition to varsity swimming was made much easier for the team’s newcomers.

“It took a while for some of [the younger swimmers] to meld into the team environment and practices at the beginning, but I feel most of the new guys understood what it meant to be part of the team by the end,” said Bailey.