The Lyons Township High School boys swimming team's bid for a three-peat fell just short at the IHSA State Finals on Saturday, Feb. 24. Hosted by Evanston High School, the Lions scored 150.5 points, trailing only state champion New Trier (161).
Hinsdale Central (116.5), St. Ignatius (107) and Stevenson (78) finished third through fifth. Other notable teams included Fenwick (19/19th place) and Riverside-Brookfield (6/33rd place). RBHS seniors Ja'moni Wise (4:35.70) and Matt Bielobradek (416.45) finished 10th and 12th, respectively, in diving. RBHS Junior Michael Rosa timed 57.14 in the 100 breaststroke prelims.
Although the Lions didn't win a third straight state championship, they were extremely close in a compelling state meet.
In the final race of the day, LTHS needed to win the 400-yard freestyle relay to finish first ahead of top-seeded New Trier. Instead, the Trevians recorded a time of 3 minutes, 1.29 seconds to hold off LTHS (3:03.05) essentially by two seconds for a state title. Seniors Henry Claesson, Frank McCarter, Jeffery Vitek and Spencer Walker comprised the Lions' 400 relay.
Despite that photo-finish loss, several LTHS swimmers excelled in other individual and relay races as well.
Walker, an Alabama recruit, defended his 100 backstroke state title with a finals time of 48.11 seconds. He swam a blistering time of 47.22 (state record) during Friday's preliminaries. In 2017, Walker became the first individual boys swimming state champ at LTHS.
On Saturday, he also placed fourth in the 500 freestyle in a time of 4:26.57. Fenwick junior Liam Hutchinson edged Walker for third in 4:26.56.
As if the 400 freestyle relay and 100 backstroke didn't provide enough drama and history, LTHS senior Henry Claesson tied St. Viator's Michael Balcerak for first place in the 100 butterfly in 48.60. The Virginia-Tech bound Claesson won his first state championship. He also took eighth in the 200 freestyle (1:39.30).
In both the 200 medley and 200 freestyle relays, the Lions finished second. Walker, Michael Walsh, Vitek and Jack Thorell swam a time of 1:31.24 in the 200 medley, while Walsh, McCarter, Vitek and Claesson timed 1:23.85 in the 200 freestyle. New Trier won the 200 medley and Hinsdale Central the 200 freestyle.
In other notable individual results, Walsh placed fourth in the 100 breaststroke (56.12) and 12th in the 50 freestyle (21.45), Vitek was sixth in the 100 butterfly (49.73) and McCarter eighth in the 100 freestyle (46.47).
The Lions will graduate a stellar senior class, including Walker, Claesson, Vitek and McCarter. Walsh and Thorell return as team leaders next year.
LTHS, Hinsdale Central and up-and-coming Oak Park and River Forest (21st at state meet) will be the top teams in the West Suburban Conference Silver Division next year.