Lyons Township High School swimmer Weston Credit secured his school’s first point at the state meet in three years when he finished 12th in the 100-yard breaststroke last season.
It represented the first step up a steep but ultimately climbable ladder for the Lions, who are slowly rebuilding their program.
At least that’s the opinion of Lyons Township coach Scott Walker, who is optimistic about his squad’s future.
“Scoring a point is not a bad thing at state,” Walker said. “There’s a lot of people who forget that half of the teams there never even get to swim [the finals] on Saturday.
“I think this season will be better than last year’s. Our expectations are higher in a positive, realistic way. We’re on stable ground with our dreams.”
In addition to Credit, a junior, the Lions have four other individual state qualifiers back, including senior Ben Hewitt, who was 22nd in the 500 freestyle, and junior Chris Phillips, who finished 37th in the breaststroke.
Senior Matt Benz and sophomore Seamus Scotty both made it to state in diving last year, finishing 19th and 21st, respectively, and have a good shot at moving up after six of the divers who finished ahead of them graduated.
In addition, the Lions return three members of the 200 medley relay that took 23rd: Credit, senior Jack Garrow and sophomore Matt Linden.
This year’s 200 medley relay features a reunion of sorts. The four swimmers that competed in last week’s season opener against Glenbrook North – Credit, Linden and sophomores Ben Johnston and Spencer Walker – swam that same event at the J.O. age group state meet eight years ago.
“That’s really cool,” Scott Walker said. “We have a picture of them from eight years ago and we’re going to take another one now.
“They all went to separate clubs but they always knew they would get back together for high school. The kids have been talking about it for a while. It’s neat to see now that it’s reality.”
Spencer Walker is the coach’s son and is one of the most promising of a solid group of youngsters. He will swim the backstroke and distance freestyles.
“As of right now he’s our fastest backstroker,” Scott Walker said. “Two weeks before the season he was already under the state cut and under the school record. We’re hoping he can withstand the training regimen of high school swimming.”
That includes some fierce competition in practice as the Lions vie for lineup spots. Garrow (backstroke), Phillips (breaststroke and 200 individual medley), Linden (freestyle) and seniors Ben Hewett (distance) and Lucas O’Bryan (butterfly and IM) are some of the veterans looking to make a splash, while Johnston and sophomore David Rak (distance freestyle) are aiming to become regulars.
“We have a ton of internal competition within in the team,” Scott Walker said. “As a coach I don’t have to be the sole motivator. The boys are keeping each other honest.”
While Walker cautions that breakout success will not happen overnight, he’s looking forward to a good year. The Lions’ goal is to score more than one point at state.
“We’re slowly building,” Walker said. “We’ll swim better than we did last year. “Something big is going to happen because we’re so young. If we stay healthy, good things are going to happen. It’s something we’re looking forward to in the next 2-3 years.”