With a large senior class graduating, Fenwick boys swimming coach Luke McGuire will be looking for a good team leader.
The odds are pretty good it will be Liam Hutchinson.
Living up to high expectations, the sophomore earned the first two state medals of his career Saturday at the state finals at New Trier.
Hutchinson made the consolation heats of the 200-yard freestyle and 500 freestyle. He finished ninth in the 200 in 1:41.16 and eighth in the 500 in a personal-best 4:31.55.
“I was just really excited because all I wanted to do coming into state was make finals,” Hutchinson said. “After my races yesterday, I’m just so happy to be here.”
Hutchinson qualified for state as a freshman but did not advance to finals, so his performance in Friday’s preliminary round was a key breakthrough. He ranked ninth in the 200 and 11th in the 500 after prelims, dropping six seconds off his seed time in the later while setting a personal-best of 1:40.21 in the 200.
“Last year I got to state, which was great, so this year my mentality was more I want to medal and get to finals,” Hutchinson said. “Now that I’ve done that, everything has gone to plan, so it’s all good.
“For me (the key) is just all about going to practice every day and putting in the hard work. If you’ve done all that, you know at the end of the season you’re going to get those times that you want.”
McGuire was pleased to see Hutchinson succeed.
“I would say he met (the expectations),” McGuire said. “We had a good sense that he would be here on Saturday. I think he wanted to swim a little faster, but we’re plenty happy with what he’s done.”
This year’s success was a long time coming for Hutchinson, who began swimming when he was 5. He takes the sport seriously and relishes his time with the Friars.
“It’s really cool,” Hutchinson said. “Coming in as a freshman, I could tell that the group of boys was really tight knit.
“We stand up for each other and we’re good friends. Swimming for Fenwick is kind of all about friendship and just doing your best.”
The Friars did so even though Hutchinson was their only medalist this year.
“The relays did a little bit better than we did at sectionals,” Hutchinson said. We got best times but maybe not as fast as we wanted to go.”
Fenwick missed making the finals in the 200 medley relay by .73 seconds as the quartet of Tommy Bartecki, Payton Comstock, Kevin Finn and Conor Hendzel finished 16th in 1:37.79.
The 400 free relay of Hutchinson, Matt Hoban, Bartecki and Kyle Poland took 15th in 3:12.08, 2.55 seconds shy of the cut, and the 200 free squad of Dan Lynch, Poland, Bartecki and Hutchinson timed 1:26.74 to place 19th.
In the individual events, Lynch took 28th in the 100 breaststroke in 59.53 and Bartecki was 35th in the 100 backstroke in 53.61.
“Everybody swam well,” McGuire said. “For the most part everyone either held time or dropped time.
“We only had a couple of swims that were slower. With the exception of Liam, everyone tapered for last week, so being able to hold the taper to this week is good.”