The philosopher George Santayana famously opined that those who fail to learn history are doomed to repeat it.
Scott Walker has an interesting spin on that. The Lyons Township High School boys swimming coach wants his charges to take what they learned from last year and promptly forget that recent history.
The Lions captured their first state championship last season with a young team that had never before come close to contending.
“We prefer not to talk about (the championship),” Walker said. “On Day 1, I told the guys we’re no longer state champs. Your slate is clean.
“We’re a different team and we have to establish an identity for ourselves. We have some new kids and other teams are gunning for us, which is kind of a cool thing.”
While they graduated a pair of double individual state medalists in Weston Credit and Chris Phillips, the bulk of the lineup is back.
Juniors Henry Claesson and Spencer Walker – the coach’s son – take over as the team’s star attractions, while seniors Ryan Hammond, Ben Johnston, Matt Linden, David Rak and Seamus Scotty lead an impressively deep senior class.
While he wants the Lions to put last year’s historic triumph in the rearview mirror, Scott Walker knows the lasting impact it had on his troops.
“It gave the kids the understanding that the hard work in the off-season does pay off and it actually can happen,” Walker said. “But you have to have the stars align for you. They were in place for us last year and we were ready.
“It really is still surreal.”
Even so, the Lions are still trying to forge an identity.
“We’re still trying to figure out who we are,” Scott Walker said. “We’ve got some things to figure out.”
The biggest decision will be what to do with the lineup, especially the relays, which all placed in the top 3 last year, with the 400 freestyle relay winning a title to cap the meet in style.
Claesson and Hammond both swam on all three relays but one or both may do two individual events instead of one this time around.
Claesson is the best bet to make that switch. He was 10th in the 100 freestyle last year and could add the 200 free. Hammond was ninth in the 50 free and is capable of adding the 100 free to his slate.
Spencer Walker was sixth in the 100 backstroke and eighth in the 500 free last year and figures to do both again, along with the medley and 400 free relays. Claesson could swim the 100 and 200 free and both free relays.
Johnston and junior Jeff Vitek could swim the 100 butterfly, with Johnston adding the 100 backstroke. Rak is best in the 100 back and 200 individual medley, while Linden’s forte is the freestyle events.
The Lions have a legitimate state title contender in Scotty, who already is a two-time medalist in diving. He was sixth as a sophomore and fifth last year. Two of the four divers who finished ahead of him have graduated.
“Do I think we can win again? Yes, but I don’t want to put pressure on them that they have to win.”