By Marty Farmer
"A wizard is never late nor is he early. He arrives precisely when he wants to," is one of Scott Walker's favorite quotes.
The Lyons Township High School boys swimming coach could certainly apply this "The Lord of the Rings" quote to his team.
Over the past two seasons, The Lions have arrived when it's mattered most to win a pair of state championships.
"I just want this group of ten young men to come together as a team," Walker said. "Then as a single unit, explode at the right time."
Until the right time (aka state finals) arrives, LTHS is content to work hard and improve as a team.
"I think our experience is a bonus," Walker said. "Technically, we are swimming faster than we were this time last year."
The Lions defeated well regarded Oak Park and River Forest 121-65 in a conference dual meet on Jan. 19.
"I thought we swam really well (against OPRF) especially after an outstanding week of some very tough workouts," Walker said. "We pretty much swam around our season-times. The guys are tired right now. So, being consistent with our tired times is a great sign for great things down the road."
Standout seniors Spencer Walker (Scott's son) and Henry Claesson led LTHS with strong performances in both the individual and relay races.
Spencer Walker, who has committed to Alabama, cruised to the 100-yard backstroke title with a time of 50.53 seconds. Diego Pareja, the runner-up from OPRF, touched the wall at 56.59. Spencer Walker also swam a leg of the Lions' 200-yard medley and 400-yard freestyle relays which both finished first.
"It's been a special run for Spencer," Scott Walker said. "He is undefeated in all of his individual events this season. He has set five pool records as well as numerous meet records."
The Virginia Tech-bound Claesson placed first in both the 200-yard freestyle (1:45.62) and 100-yard butterfly (50.77).
Other individual events winners for LTHS included Jack Thorell (22.43, 50-yard freestyle), Frank McCarter (49.73, 100-yard freestyle), Henry Olenec (5:09.00, 500-yard freestyle) and Michael Walsh (1:00.54, 100-yard breaststroke).
"We have found a young sprinter in Jack Thorell," Scott Walker said. "He's been fun to watch coming into something special."
The Lions host their own invite on Saturday (Jan. 27) and then travel to York for the West Suburban Silver Championships (Feb. 3).
"Our varsity pretty much swims through conference and the primary focus becomes sectionals and state," Scott Walker said. "Our main focus for the postseason meets is our taper groups.
"We will continue to swim as hard as we can. I'm always concerned about how intense we should go. It's a fine line because I need to make sure we can train hard but remain healthy at the same time."