Whatever happens the rest of the season (or at least until sectionals), the Fenwick High School boys swimming team owns neighborhood bragging rights over OPRF.
The visiting Friars defeated the Huskies 107-78 on Dec. 4. The rivals will meet again at the Fenwick Sectional on Feb. 16. Fenwick and OPRF placed 19th and 21st, respectively, at the 2018 IHSA state meet hosted by Evanston.
In addition to its signature victory against OPRF, Fenwick has momentum with an 8-0 record in dual meets and fourth-place showings at the Viking Pentathlon hosted by Homewood-Flossmoor and the Barrington Relays.
“This is also the first time we have beaten Marmion and Sandburg in duals since I became coach at Fenwick,” said Luke McGuire. “It’s just a great group of very focused kids. They are fun to coach and very invested in a ‘team’ mentality.”
The Friars kicked off 2019 with a fifth-place finish at the 25th Annual Marquette Invitational in Wisconsin. Swimming at the Walter Schroeder Aquatic Center in Brown Deer, the Friars scored 185 points in a 23-team field composed largely of Wisconsin schools.
Senior Liam Hutchinson, one of the top 200- and 500-yard freestyle swimmers in Illinois, won the 500 free with a time of 4 minutes, 38.68 seconds and took second in the 200 free at 1:42.84. Freshman Mike Flynn also fared well in those distance races by earning fourth in the 500 free (4:47.22) and sixth in the 200 free (1:45.34). Senior Dan Lynch touched the wall at 1:01.67 in the 100-yard breaststroke for fourth. Lynch, a standout water polo player at Fenwick as well, notched 13th in the 50-yard freestyle at 22.75.
Other notable swims included junior Dan Bajda (100-yard freestyle: 50.56/16th place), sophomore Pete Buinauskas (100-yard backstroke: 59.48/16th) and sophomore Connor McCarthy (200-yard individual medley: 2:03.76/9th; 100-yard butterfly: 54.55/12th). Underclassmen Will Gurski and Dylan Fu recorded times of 1:05.63 and 1:05.74 in the 100 breast, respectively, to come in 15th and 16th.
Other contributing varsity swimmers this season include Alex Figus, Payton Comstock, Brian Moore and Luke Yungerman.
The Friars were solid in the relays, taking fourth in the 200 medley relay, fifth in the 400 freestyle relay and seventh in the 200 freestyle relay. Fenwick produced season-best times across the board at the Marquette Invite.
“We are coming off one of the best Christmas break training regimens since I have been coaching at Fenwick,” McGuire said. “There was a lot of hard work from the kids in and out of the pool and lots of team bonding. We celebrated Mass on Dec. 23, we had a Secret Santa, and we went bowling. Great parents like the McCarthys and Yungermans hosted the kids at their houses between practices; other great parents brought in breakfast a few days. It was all good.”
At the Homewood-Flossmoor Invite, Fenwick bid farewell to 2018 by tying Lyons Township with 59 points apiece at the five-race event on Dec. 27. Neuqua Valley won the title with 333 points, followed by Maine South (177), Lincoln-Way East (113.5) and then the Friars and Lions.
McCarthy swam well in multiple events at H-F. He touched the wall at 2:46 in the 200 IM, good for fourth, and recorded a time of 50.67 to place seventh in the 100 free. He also scored well in the 100 fly (56.23/11th place) and 100 back (59.85/17th). Lynch came in fifth in the 100 breast at 1:04.32.
“The guys are working great together as a group,” McGuire said. “We have built some fast relays around Liam with guys likely to get individual points at the state meet.”
Hutchinson, who has committed to Notre Dame, is the Friars’ top swimmer, He placed seventh in the 200 free (1:39.15, consolation final) at the 2018 state meetright behind Will Raidt, who set an OPRF school record in the prelims with a personal-best time of 1:39.12. At the Fenwick Sectional last year, Raidt (1:41.86) edged Hutchinson (1:42.10) for the title.
“Having Will as a competitor and friend at sectionals and state is fun for me,” Hutchinson said. “I know we will push each other to go faster and perform as well as we can. The 200 free is always one of the most competitive events at the state meet.”
Last year, The Friars went 7-4 in dual meets, placing third in the MCAC standings, won their sectional, and tied with Lake Park (19 points each) to finish 19th at state.
Expectations remain high this season.
“We hope to win sectionals by qualifying a bunch of guys through [to the state meet],” McGuire said. “We want to place a handful of relays and individual guys at New Trier [the 2019 state meet site].”