By Marty Farmer
Heading into the IHSA state finals this weekend (Feb. 23-24) at Evanston, the Lyons Township High School boys swimming team is right where it needs to be. That's a scary thought for opponents, considering the Lions are vying for a third straight state championship.
The Lions tuned up for state by winning the Downers Grove North Sectional on Saturday, Feb. 17. LTHS (290) edged Hinsdale Central (286) to claim the sectional title.
"We did exactly what we needed to do," LTHS coach Scott Walker said. "The guys that were shaved and tapered went lifetime-best swims. All of our relays were wearing speedos and will go Tech suits and shave for Friday's state prelims."
At Downers Grove North, LTHS broke pool records in the 200-yard medley relay (Spencer Walker, Michael Walsh, Jeff Vitek, Jack Thorell/1 minute, 33.32 seconds), 100-yard butterfly (Henry Claesson/49.25 seconds), 100-yard backstroke (Walker/48.96) and 100-yard breaststroke (Walsh/56.45).
In the other relays, LTHS advanced the 200-yard freestyle and 400-yard freestyles teams with respective runner-up times of 1:24.96 and 3:08.45. Hinsdale Central placed first in those relays.
In individual races, Cleasson won the 200-yard freestyle (140.16) and Walker won the 500-yard freestyle (4:37.37) as multi-event winners at the sectional.
Other state qualifying efforts included Walsh (21.29) and Thorell (21.84), who finished second and third, respectively, in the 50 free behind Hinsdale Central's Cole Grosshans (21.04). Vitek took second in the 100 fly with a time of 50.30 behind Claesson. Senior Frank McCarter earned a state finals trip in two events, 100 free (47.46) and 100 back (52.90).
The Lions won a team-best six events at Downers Grove North, followed by Hinsdale Central (4) and the host Trojans (2). Hinsdale Central is another top contender to win state.
"I really don't like to call it a rivalry (LTHS vs. Hinsdale Central). There is too much respect for one another," Scott Walker said. "All I know is that if we're on the same deck together, the boys will always find a way to perform at their best regardless of where are at in training."
From the Lions' perspective, their experience and apparent talent positions them well to make another run at a state championship.
"Spencer, Henry and Jeffery Vitek have some really good experience under their belt," Scott Walker said. "I expect them to lead our charge. It's going to be a barn burner of a meet. I hope that I can be a spectator with the best seat in the house!"
Of course, preparation is of paramount importance this week.
"We will start to rest more in the water," Scott Walker said. "The guys will get some rub-downs throughout the week with our masseurs as well as get into detailed visualization. I think the guys are right where they need to be mentally, emotionally and spiritually. It should be the perfect storm."