Quinn Risley is headed for the Big Ten and he and his teammates are hoping the Riverside-Brookfield High School boys swim team is headed for the big time.
RBHS was briefly among the elite boys swimming teams in the state back in the late 1950s but in the decades since has become a backwater.
That changed last year when the Bulldogs put together their fastest team ever, breaking eight school records and winning their first sectional championship.
RBHS scored 14 points at the state meet to finish 27th in the team standings. The Bulldogs return all but one swimmer from that team, meaning expectations, and excitement, are high.
“Last year we had a couple of guys who were focused on success at the state meet [as opposed to just getting there],” RBHS coach Todd Fridrych said. “This year I think we’ll have more of a team commitment to do that, so that is a definite difference this year.”
Risley will once again lead the way. The Iowa signee is psyched up for what promises to be a great senior season. He finished fifth in the 50-yard freestyle at the 2014 state meet, becoming just the 11th state medalist in school history.
“I’m very excited about [Risley’s signing with Iowa],” Fridrych said. “He had some options and something about Iowa stood out for him. I think it will be a good fit.”
As good as Risley’s performance was last year, he left state wanting more as he finished 18th in the 100 freestyle, missing the finals by .47. That prevented him from becoming just the fourth Bulldog to win two individual medals at the same state meet. Risley’s brother, Graham, was the last RB swimmer to accomplish that feat, back in 2009.
“[Risley] has some lofty goals and we’ll see whether he will fulfill them,” Fridrych said. “He should be in the hunt for the 50 free [state title] and I’m sure he wants to improve in the 100. He was disappointed not to make finals in the 100 last year.”
Besides Risley, the Bulldogs welcome back seven other swimmers who got their feet wet at state last year. That includes three-fourths of the 200 freestyle relay that finished 11th. Risley, senior Anthony Colon and junior Christian Hernandez are back from that quartet, the first RBHS relay team to medal since 1960.
Also back are senior Dominic Rosa, Rosa’s sophomore brother, Joey, and seniors Christian Chavez, Kevin Garza and Tim Walsh. Garza (backstroke) and Dominic Rosa (breaststroke) were individual state qualifiers while the other swam on relays.
“The bar is definitely set higher and they’re the ones setting it,” Fridrych said. “Some of them wanted a state medal and lost out. Kevin Garza swallowed some water in his race and missed the cut. He wants a top 6 medal.”
While team captain Tim Somers graduated, Fridrych thinks he may have a replacement in sophomore Michael Georgopolus, a talented sprint freestyler.
“We have a dark horse in Michael Georgopolus,” Fridrych said. “He’s only a sophomore but he’s got a ton of potential. He’s a young talent who might contend for a varsity spot to replace Tim in the 50.”
In addition to Risley, Garza, Walsh and Colon are hoping to swim in college. Meanwhile, they are focused on helping the Bulldogs improve on last year’s finish. Risley and Dominic Rosa were elected co-captains by their peers.
“They are both ideal leaders,” Fridrych said. “They bring two different gamuts as far as leadership and we’ll lean heavily on their example. Mentally and physically they have all the intangibles needed to be leaders.”
The Bulldogs got off to a promising start, beating Lincoln-Way West 100-64 in their season opener despite being without Risley and Walsh. They took on Homewood-Flossmoor in the home opener on Tuesday and host Oak Park and River Forest on Friday.