By Marty Farmer
Over the past three seasons, the Lyons Township High School boys swimming team has claimed two state championships and a state runner-up finish.
At the 2018 IHSA state meet, Spencer Walker and Henry Claesson won state titles in the 100-yard backstroke and 100-yard butterfly, respectively, while the team also placed second in all three relays at state. LTHS, which finished as the state runner-up behind New Trier, went undefeated in dual meets and won conference and sectional championships.
Despite the retirement of longtime coach Scott Walker and departures of Spencer Walker (Scott's son, swimming at Alabama), Claesson (swimming at Virginia Tech), Jeffrey Vitek and Frank McCarter to graduation, the Lions' expectations remain high this winter.
"With a new head coach and new assistance coaches, this is a transition year," head coach Erin Rodriguez said. "I would like to see the team continue to hold themselves to the high expectations they have held in the past. We return strong swimmer from our state team."
Fortunately, the cupboard is far from bare in terms of returning talent.
Michael Walsh and Jack Thorell headline a talented group.
Walsh, a six-time state medalist, primarily swims the 100-yard breaststroke, 200-yard individual medley, 200-yard freestyle plus relays. Next fall, he will play college baseball at Yale.
Thorell recorded a top-6 finish in the 200-yard medley at his first state meet last season. He's also an accomplished sprinter and backstroker.
Seniors Hayden Claesson, Ben Lynch, Jack Racanelli and Will Duerr, along with juniors Henry Olenec and Bryson Breitenbucker, are other notable contributors. Underclassmen Tomas Samuolis, Paul Racanelli and Luke Thorell are gaining valuable experience in the pool.
"Our team is very successful when the boys compete for each other," Rodriguez said. "Taking the pressure off the individual and knowing your team is behind you will pull you up when you need it, makes swimming fast easier."
The Lions closed out 2018 by tying Fenwick (59 points each) at the Viking Pentathlon hosted by Homewood-Flossmoor High School on Dec. 27. Neuqua Valley won the five-race event with 333 points, followed by Maine South (177), Lincoln-Way East (113.5) and then the tandem of LTHS and Fenwick.
Walsh and Thorell won the 100 breast and 100 back, respectively, with times of 1 minute, 1.86 seconds and 54.69 seconds at H-F. Thorell also took fifth in the 100-yard freestyle with a time of 49.76.
In earlier results this season, LTHS was the team champion at the Marmion Relays, took third at the Stevenson Invite and fourth at the Barrington Invite. In their biggest dual meet of the year, the Lions lost to conference rival/fellow state contender Hinsdale Central 103-88.
LTHS hosts Downers Grove North on Friday, Jan. 11 at 5 p.m. The Lions follow that conference dual meet by competing at the New Trier Invite on Jan. 12 at noon in Winnetka.