Powered by solid performances from Michael and Joey Rosa, Christian Hernandez, Michael Georgopolus and others, the Riverside-Brookfield High School swimming team placed fourth at its own invite on Saturday.
The Bulldogs scored 194 points to finish behind champion St. Ignatius (365), runner-up Oak Park and River Forest (269) and Lockport (201) in the 11-team field of the Riverside-Brookfield Invitational.
Freshman Michael Rosa took second in the 100-yard breaststroke with a time of 1:03.92, trailing only Elgin’s Kelvin Xie (1:02.92). Senior Joey Rosa placed fourth in the 200-yard individual medley (2:04.58) and fifth in the 100-yard butterfly (56.46).
“My goal is to qualify for state in the 100 butterfly and the 200-yard IM,” Michael Rosa said. “I really also want our 200 medley relay and 200 freestyle relay to qualify. I think those both have a really good chance.”
The Bulldogs also fared well in the 50-yard freestyle with Hernandez (22.79) and Georgopolus (22.81) placing third and fourth, respectively. Georgopolus was fourth in the 100-yard freestyle (49.91).
Mac Catrambone scored 349.80 to earn fourth in diving. Ethan Miranda-Gale came in ninth in the 500-yard freestyle (5:23.71) and Kyle Paeth was 10th in the 100-yard backstroke (1:01.26).
RBHS also earned a pair of fourth-place finishes in the relay races. Paeth, Michael Rosa, Miranda-Gale and Ben Regan earned fourth in the 200-yard medley relay (1:51.62), while Michael Rosa, Regan, Paeth and Murphy notched fourth in the 200-yard freestyle relay (1:41.04).
“Our relays have definitely gotten stronger,” Joey Rosa said. “Michael Georgopolus is getting to be a lot faster as a sprinter. We have two freshmen in Michael Rosa and Kyle Paeth that are just getting better every day.”
The 400-yard freestyle relay team of Murphy, Matt Harder, Luis Flores and Nick Pavlakovic touched the wall at 3:51.54 for ninth place. Pavlakovic achieved a personal best time on his leg of the relay.
“Even when we weren’t winning some of the races, nobody gave up,” Pavlakovic said. “We all tried harder because we knew we had to fight back in order to pull through.”
Pavlakovic is looking forward to the Independent Conference meet on Saturday, Feb. 6 hosted by De Kalb High School. After the conference meet, he will most likely be supporting any of his teammates who qualify for the sectional and state meet competitions.
“I hope to make it to conference, but I believe that’s where my road will end,” Pavlakovic said. “As a team, we’re hoping to defend what we did as a JV team winning conference a few years in a row. Then we’re hoping to place well in sectionals and get some swimmers to state.”
Risley makes impact as new coach
Under first-year coach Graham Risley, the Bulldogs have established a strong work ethic and terrific team chemistry.
“We definitely thought it was going to be tough because we lost a lot of seniors and we have a new coach,” Pavlakovic said. “I feel that we’ve been swimming pretty strongly as a team given the new circumstances we’ve been under.
“Our team has been bonding a lot which has really been helping in our meets. We have more trust in each other when we’re swimming. We know we won’t let each other down.”
Risley, a 2009 RBHS graduate and the most decorated swimmer in school history, is an ideal role model for the young Bulldogs.
He placed third in the 100-yard breaststroke and 100-yard butterfly (and qualified for six different events overall) at the state meet, set 11 varsity swimming records and was a two-time All-American swimmer during a stellar high school career. He also swam at Penn State.
From a coaching perspective, Risley is simply focused on helping each swimmer realize his potential.
“Trying to find each individual’s needs can be a challenge,” Risley said. “Everyone comes in having different difficulties with events. Finding out what needs to be learned that’s going to decrease the times by the end of the year is a really important thing.”
The Bulldogs have worked hard learning on the fly under their new coach.
“The practices are pretty hard but that’s a good thing,” Pavlakovic said. “We’ve gotten used to what (Risley) wants out of us and there aren’t any complaints. He’s just a great coach.”
Joey Rosa added: “Both of our captains, Michael Georgopolus and me, are juniors. It’s a little bit difficult transitioning into a leadership role, but Graham (Risley) is helping us out a lot. I think we’re adapting pretty well to our new roles.”