The boys high school swimming state finals at New Trier last weekend saw the closing of one era at Riverside-Brookfield and the opening of another began at Lyons Township.
RBHS seniors Quinn Risley and Kevin Garza closed out their impressive high school careers by each winning one individual state medal and another in a relay.
Fittingly for a duo that was part of the fastest team in school history, Garza and Risley swam the final two legs of the 200-yard freestyle relay, which placed 10th in 1:27.14. Tim Walsh and Christian Chavez swam the first two legs, which earned a medal for the second straight season. It was the highest finish in RBHS history in that event.
“I was really excited for it,” Risley said. “I think we have an amazing group of guys. We all grew up within walking distance of each other so it’s really special to have the guys you grow up with to be your team at the last meet together.”
The Iowa-bound Risley graduates as the most decorated swimmer in RBHS history. His four state medals are one more than his brother, Graham, won between 2007 and 2009.
While he didn’t accomplish his goal of qualifying for the championship heat of the 50 freestyle or 100 freestyle, Risley did win the last individual race of his prep career, capturing the consolation heat of the 50 to finish seventh in 21.04 after timing 20.98 in the prelims.
“I was stoked to win it,” said Risley, who was 20th in the 100. “I think that any time you can win your heat, even growing up, is just a special feeling, whether it’s consolation or championship finals. The competition here is amazing so it feels good to take any win I can.”
Garza took home his first individual medal with a 12th place showing in the 100 butterfly. He timed 50.99 in the prelims and 51.29 in the consolation heat.
“It was bittersweet,” Garza said. “I came in with higher hopes, but I did what I did. I got in to swim today and it’s something that I’ve got to be happy about.”
Garza swam the leadoff leg and Risley the anchor leg of the 200 medley relay with finished a heartbreaking 13th in 1:35.46, missing out on a medal by one second. Christian Hernandez and Dominic Rosa were on that relay.
But that couldn’t dampen what has been an amazing revival in the program, which still has young talent like junior Mac Catrambone, who was 20th in diving, coming back.
“It’s been great,” Garza said. “R-B is so small that we’ve practically grown up together, so it’s been a good journey. It’s been awesome seeing us grow up and putting R-B on the map.”
After scoring just one point over the past three state meets, LTHS got back on the map in a big way, scoring 34 points to finish 15th in the team standings, its best showing since 2009.
Junior Weston Credit finished sixth in the 100 breaststroke in 57.70 and sophomore Seamus Scotty took sixth in diving with 450.10 points.
“The key was to work hard and have fun working and the community and camaraderie on the team was the most I’ve ever had,” LTHS senior Ben Hewett said. “We pushed each other to new heights and we had fun doing it.”
Hewett won his final race, emerging victorious in the consolation heat of the 500 freestyle to take seventh place in 4:37.19, over a second faster than his preliminary round time.
“It has been my goal for four years to be able to come out here and qualify top 12,” Hewett said. “Doing it in this race, all I wanted to do was have fun and race whoever was around me, so I couldn’t have gone as fast without everyone else.
Junior Chris Phillips was the Lions’ other individual medalist as he was 10th in the breaststroke in 58.99. The 200 medley relay of freshman Spencer Walker, Credit, freshman Henry Claesson and sophomore Matt Linden was 10th in 1:35.21.
“I think we definitely exceeded what I thought we were going to do,” Hewett said. “I think we just started a huge snowball. It’s just going to keep going downhill next year.”
Indeed, the Lions return the bulk of their lineup. Hewett, who was 19th in the 200 free and Nick Bonneville, who took 17th in the 200 and 18th in the 100 free, both graduate along with Jack Garrow, who was 29th in the 100 backstroke, and Matt Benz (23rd in diving).
But Walker (16th in the 500, 18th in the backstroke), Claesson (37th in the butterfly), Linden (35th in the 50) will be back along with Phillips and Credit, who were 19th and 23rd, respectively, in the 200 individual medley.
It bodes well for a bright future, though LTHS coach Scott Walker is content to bask in the glow of what was one of the most enjoyable seasons of his career.
“[It was] without question and it’s because the way the guys are educated,” Walker said. “They do not do a lot of complaining. They never feel sorry for themselves or upset after a bad swim. They just move on and I’m truly blessed this year.”