Nothing beats experience and that is something the Fenwick High School boys swimming team has in abundance.
The Friars return all but one of their state qualifiers and even their youngest swimmers have plenty of club experience.
The strength of the squad will be the 200-yard medley relay team, which returns three of the four swimmers who led Fenwick to sixth place in the event at last season’s state finals.
The lone loss, multiple state medalist Michael Hill, is a big one, but seniors Chez Daggs, Cavan Smith and Mickey McGuire give Fenwick an advantage over many schools.
“It’s hard to replace Mike but the other guys should be faster,” Fenwick coach Luke McGuire, Mickey’s father. “If we can find someone else to step up and fill that spot, we should be good.”
Senior Ryan Clark is one of the leading candidates for the role.
“Ryan Clark is definitely a leader in the pool,” Luke McGuire said. “He’s been swimming pretty good and our most consistent swimmer.”
While many of the individual events are still up in the air, the Friars seem to be set in the relays. Many elite teams like to build their lineups around the three relays, which are worth double the amount of points awarded to individual events.
The Friars should be in good shape in that regard because they also return three legs of the 200 freestyle relay – Smith, McGuire and sophomore Tommy Bartecki – that finished 15th at state last year, three slots shy of the finals.
Fenwick, which placed 20th at state last winter, won’t wow opponents with superior talent, but the Friars have a solid team which is prepared to do good things. Most importantly, the squad has good leadership that takes things seriously.
“This team is immensely focused right now, something I have not seen this early in a couple of seasons,” Luke McGuire said. “We have had great leadership from the three team captains (McGuire, Daggs and Smith) and practices have been great.”
Smith replaces Hill as the team’s top swimmer. A two-time state medalist in the 100 butterfly, Smith is hoping to qualify for the championship heat at state after finishing eighth last year. He’s also a threat to medal in the 50 freestyle, where he was 14th a year ago, though he might not swim that event.
The other returning state qualifiers are Daggs, who was 37th in the 100 breaststroke, and junior Connor Hendzel, who made it in diving in his first year competing in that event. Hendzel, though, is concentrating solely on swimming this season.
Mickey McGuire should be a force on all three relays, including the 400 free, which did not qualify for state last season.
Notable early results this season include: Fenwick (291) over St. Viator (202) and St. Rita (66) in a home triangular and a loss at crosstown rival Oak Park and River Forest (97-89).