Quinn Risley is an outlier.
Nearly all of the swimmers who earned medals at the boys swimming state finals on Saturday at Evanston train year-round.
Not so for Risley, who hasn’t done club swimming in the past three years. But that didn’t stop the Riverside-Brookfield High School junior from finishing fifth in the 50-yard freestyle and swimming the opening leg of the Bulldogs’ 200 free relay which finished 11th.
Risley is just the 11th swimmer in school history to win an individual medal and the sixth to win two medals in the same year.
“It’s pretty amazing,” Risley said. “We didn’t know what I was going to do this year because it’s been kind of a freak season.
“I haven’t really put much work in in the pool the last three years. But it’s been really exciting to see how fast I’ve been going in a short amount of time.”
Risley, who missed the 12-man finals in the 100 free by less than a second, taking 18th in 47.72, swam the third-fastest time in Friday’s preliminary round. His 20.99 clocking was 1.1 seconds behind Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin senior Ryan Held, who would go on to win Saturday in a state-record 19.76.
Risley swam in the lane next to Held during the finals and finished in 21.05.
“It’s always going to be brutal to swim right next to a state record-breaker and I knew Held had it in him because you’re just gunning for it on finals day,” Risley said. “But I’m not disappointed.”
Neither was RBHS coach Todd Fridrych.
“I am surprised at how much he’s improved in one season, considering he didn’t train in the off-season,” Fridrych said. “He definitely exceeded our expectations. We were hoping for a top 12 medal, so it definitely was very cool for him and our school.”
Risley is continuing a fine family tradition. His father, Jay, was a state record-holder in Indiana who swam at Indiana University and his brother, Graham, is the most decorated swimmer in RBHS history having won three medals, including third-place showings in the 100 backstroke and 100 butterfly in 2009.
But Risley’s path has been a little harder, and his success more noteworthy, because of a medical condition that leads to severe dizziness.
“I get dizzy when my head changes positions a lot,” Risley explained. “It’s kind of just an equilibrium with my brain so if my head rises real fast I get really, really dizzy and it’s usually for an extended period of time.
“When I dive in my head is kind of getting thrown around with the turn and it can get me pretty dizzy. At the end of the season I pretty much don’t have it because my tolerance goes up, which is why if I swim year-round I don’t think I’ll have any problems with it.
“It’s pretty temperamental. There’s not much we can plan to do except get a lot of yards under the belt until I’m more tolerant of it.”
Fridrych decided to limit Risley to the sprint freestyles this year, since the other strokes bring on the dizziness more easily.
“When he’s out of cardiovascular shape it wreaks a little havoc,” Fridrych said. “It is exacerbated during the other strokes. But we’re going to see what he wants to do next season.”
Risley does want to expand his repertoire but he is mainly focused on going faster. He was disappointed that he didn’t better his sectional time of 20.74.
“I thought I was going to go faster,” Risley said. “I wasn’t fully shaved or tapered at sectionals so we thought coming into state that I was going to be gunning for the win. It didn’t pan out the way we thought but I’m still really happy with what I did.”
It was all part of a great showing by the Bulldogs, who finished 27th in the team standings with 14 points. Their 200 free relay team of Risley, sophomore Christian Hernandez, junior Anthony Colon and senior Tim Somers grabbed the 12th and final qualifying spot by timing 1:26.56 on Friday, then moved up to 11th on Saturday with a 1:27.01 showing.
It was just the fourth relay team in RBHS history to win a medal and the first since 1960, when the 200 medley squad finished fourth.
“It was an historic season and historic meet for us,” Fridrych said. “We knew going in it was going to be a tough fight to have [the relay] get into the top 12 knowing how many teams didn’t shave and taper for sectionals [like the Bulldogs did]. Then on Saturday our objective was not to be 12th. They got it done.”
In other results, Somers was 29th in the 50 in 22.07 and junior Dominic Rosa took 42nd in the 100 breaststroke (1:01.79). The 400 free relay of Somers, Hernandez, junior Kevin Garza and Risley placed 22nd (3:14.80) and the medley squad of Garza, Chavez, Colon and Somers was 30th (1:38.96).
Lyons Township High School sophomore Weston Condit was the first Lion in three years to medal when he took 12th in the breaststroke (59.44).